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    Sunday, February 1, 1998

    Freestylers play arbitration ace

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
    Note to Emanuel Sandhu:
     Two members of the American freestyle ski team, Stacey Blumer, the defending overall World Cup aerials champion, and Jim Moran, a moguls skier, were refused a spot on the American team for failing to meet qualifying standards and all of that.
     This week, the pair went before an arbitrator and, you know what? They're off to Nagano.
     Which just goes to show that arbitration can work. It worked for Blumer and Moran, and it worked for Canadian equestrian rider Eric Lamaze last year.
     Who knows? If Sandhu had elected to go before an arbitrator, which was his option, he may be Nagano-bound right now. As it was, the promising young figure skater decided not to go the arbitration route.
     That's a shame.
     WARRIOR: A lot of fuss has been made about Paul Kariya's Japanese ancestry -- how the superstar with the Nagano-bound Canadian men's hockey team will be inundated with media requests and autograph-seekers when he arrives in The Land of the Rising Sun.
     Kariya isn't the only Canadian Olympian who comes from Japanese stock. Vicky Sunohara, a left-winger with the powerful Canadian women's hockey team, actually has connections to the Nagano area.
     The Toronto native's grandparents, on her father's side, hail from the village of Ueda-shi, which is a small mountain community about 35 miles from Nagano.
     Dr. John Sunohara, Vicky's uncle, said the family history goes back at least 400 years in the area.
     "In fact, they were Samurai warriors who lived in the mountains," he said.
     Which might explain Vicky's renowned tenacity and determination. Vicky's father David died when she was just seven, but her thoughts will be with her dad in Nagano.
     "I believe he'll be there with me," she said.
     KENT CANS KENNY: Many Swedish sports writers, not to mention New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury, are up in arms over Kenny Jonsson's snub from the Olympic team. Lars Mauritzson of the Swedish paper NST said that Jonsson is generally rated ahead of two defencemen on the Swedish roster, Mattias Norstrom of the Los Angeles Kings and Marcus Ragnarsson of the San Jose Sharks. Ragnarsson and Norstrom have 16 and nine points, respectively, while Jonsson, a former Maple Leaf, has 24 for a rather inferior team. Mauritzson believes Jonsson, whose brother Jorgen is a forward with the Olympic squad, was given the snub by Kent Forsberg after criticizing the coach during the last World Cup.
     LUGE THIS: The word out of luge land -- that's where Santa goes tobogganing -- is that Canada's top luger, Clay Ives of Bancroft, Ont., was not amused when he heard word of a Canadian Olympic Association memo that listed the medal potential for each event in Nagano. Beside the luge category were the words: No medal potential. Not that Ives is the world champion or anything, but he has broken the top 10 on the World Cup circuit at least once this year. In fact, his results have been consistently better than those posted by biathlete Myriam Bedard, who is listed as a medal candidate in two events.
     THE SPORT THAT ATE THE OLYMPICS: Just when you thought the IOC had gone completely crazy after making ballroom dancing a Games event, comes news that the loonies from Lausanne are giving tentative recognition to sumo wrestling, meaning that those big, fat, sweaty guys may one day be competing for gold, silver and bronze. But hey, most people outside Canada think curling's nuts.
     PLUCKY SEVEN: The Japanese men's hockey team will be led by six Japanese-Canadians and one Japanese-American. They're being called The Seven Gaijin Samurai by the Japanese media.
     IT'S ALL PERCEPTION: It's funny how sport works. During the Dubin inquiry into the use of banned drugs, set up following Ben Johnson's steroid positive at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the United States Olympic Committee was slammed for setting up non-punitive drug-testing scheme. The idea behind the program was to test all the Americans and make sure none of the good ol' home-town kids tested positive at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Essentially, it was a screening exercise, designed to save L.A. organizers any embarrassment. The USOC was later vilified for setting up such a program -- that's not how doping control is supposed to work. Now, the NHL does the same thing and nobody seems to mind.
     NAGANO NUGGETS: Bobsled pilot Chris Lori will be competing in his fourth Olympics ... There has been talkabout who should carry the flag for Canada in the opening ceremonies. Usually, the reasons have to do with political correctness. Forget all that. The flag bearer should be three-time world champ Elvis Stojko. Wayne Gretzky would be a good choice, but he won't be there for the ceremonies.