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    Saturday, February 21, 1998

    Brian Shimer fails again to medal -- by two-hundredths of a second

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Nobody should have to endure this much pain.
     A decade ago, Brian Shimer watched Brent Rushlaw lose an Olympic bobsled medal for the United States by two-hundredths of a second.
     Four years ago, Shimer became the only man in Olympic history to be disqualified from a four-man bobsled race for having sled runners that were warmer than the rules allowed.
     On Saturday, Shimer lost an Olympic medal that was within his grasp. Incredibly, it, too, was by two-hundredths of a second.
     "Now I know what Brent went through," Shimer said, his voice cracking with emotion.
     "You just never know how much it hurts 'til it happens to you."
     Shimer was in the driver's seat, tied for third with Sean Olsson of Britain and Christian Reich of Switzerland entering the final run.
     After Friday's second run was canceled because of a steady rain and mild temperatures, the race became a three-heat contest.
     A gold medal was out of the question -- Christoph Langen had built an insurmountable lead in Germany 2 -- but the other medals were there for the taking.
     Bruno Mingeon of France was lurking right behind the leaders, only eight-hundredths back. When he reeled off an impressive final run of 53.63 seconds, the pressure mounted.
     Reich could not measure up and finished seventh in Switzerland 2.
     Next came Olsson. It had been more than three decades since the British won an Olympic bobsled medal, and Olsson faltered, too, finishing in 53.71. He was tied with Mingeon.
     Now it was Shimer's turn, beginning the day in fourth, with much to ponder. The United States hasn't won an Olympic bobsled medal since Arthur Tyler captured the four-man bronze in 1956.
     With musclemen Chip Minton and Randy Jones yelling and pushing with all their might, Shimer picked up valuable time at the start. His shiny black Bo-Dyn sled looked super fast -- the blue flames painted across the bow seemed to billow in the wintry breeze -- and it was.
     As USA 1 plummeted down the 15-turn Spiral track, Shimer's splits were fastest of all. He had the quickest start, and midway down was more than a tenth of a second faster than both Mingeon and Olsson.
     Somehow, though, he lost his edge in the final four turns.
     And the medal, too.
     "The only way that could have happened is if somebody put the brakes on in curve 13," Shimer said. "I don't know how I could lose so much time at the bottom. All three trips were like that. If the race would have ended one split before, we probably would have a gold medal. I don't know what it could have been.
     "I know I had some mistakes," he said. "But I know that everybody else did as well."
     When Shimer crossed the finish line and looked up, Mingeon and his crew were jumping up and down, yelling and hugging. France had won its first Olympic bobsled medal. Olsson was smiling, too, and sipping champagne in the shadow of the finish house.
     Shimer threw his helmet into his bobsled and gazed at the clock in stunned disbelief, then put his head in his hands. His only hope was for Marcel Rohner to have a bad run in Switzerland 1.
     No such luck. Rohner, who had vaulted from eighth to second with a strong first run on Saturday, finished with the same time as Shimer -- 53.73 seconds -- and the silver was his.
     "This is my biggest Olympic disappointment," said the 35-year-old Shimer, from Naples, Fla.
     "I mean, when you go off the top of the hill with that kind of a start, you should win a medal. It's nobody else's fault other than mine. Every guy on that sled did his job. I didn't have my best race."