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    Thursday, February 19, 1998

    Timmer denies Witty gold medal

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- No more surprises when speedskater Marianne Timmer races. And no gold medal for Chris Witty or, most likely, any of her U.S. teammates in Nagano.
     Timmer completed a flawless race Thursday to win her second gold medal. She set an Olympic record in the 1,000 meters and spoiled Witty's bid to keep the United States from getting shut out of the gold for the first time since 1984.
     Timmer finished in 1 minute, 16.51 seconds, giving the Dutch their 11th medal in Nagano.
     Witty, the world record-holder, went in the last pairing but was hurt by a false start. She finished in 1:16.79 to win the silver. Catriona LeMay Doan of Canada won the bronze in 1:17.37.
     Timmer stunned even herself when she set a world record in the 1,500 on Monday. This time, there was only a confident smile when she lifted her head up to see her time, and another bear hug with sprint coach Peter Mueller when Witty couldn't top it.
     For the first time in two weeks at the M-Wave, American flags dotted the massive speedskating hall, the hopes never higher that Witty could top the bronze she had won in the 1,500.
     The 22-year-old from West Allis, Wis., looked relaxed before the race, cruising the inside practice lane with her hands in her pocket, giving a playful slap on the back of coach Gerard Kemkers.
     Skating in the last pair with Canadian Susan Auch, Witty was called for a false start and was caught leaning slightly when the gun sounded.
     She needed a strong final lap, but with her parents and brothers cheering her on, fell just short.
     "She probably handled all the pressure better than we did," her mother, Diane Witty, said after the race.
     It was the ninth straight event that an Olympic record was broken at the M-Wave, and the fifth gold for the Dutch in nine races. The previous record was 1:17.65 by East Germany's Christa Rothenburger in 1988.
     No one figured Timmer would dominate the sprints. While she won the world championship in the 1,000 a year ago, she was recently second even in her owncountry, taking the silver at the Dutch sprint championships.
     But after her victory in the 1,500 on Monday, Mueller predicted more greatness was ahead.
     "A lot of times when you win a medal, you feel like you've had enough," said Mueller, the U.S. gold medalist in the 1,000 in 1976 now working as the Dutch sprint coach. "But Timmer is the type of person who always wants more."
     Witty will have to wait until the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 -- with possibly a detour to Australia for the 2000 Summer Games, which she hopes to make as a cyclist.
     She leaves Nagano with a silver and bronze, a strong showing for the United States in what is a rebuilding year.
     The only event left is the women's 5,000 meters, and no American is considered a contender.
     All four Americans wound up in the top 13.
     Becky Sundstrum of Glen Ellyn, Ill., was sixth with a 1:18.23. Moira D'Andrea of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., set a personal best of 1:18.38 to finish ninth, and Jennifer Rodriguez of Miami also set a personal best of 1:19.19, good for 13th.
     Franziska Schenk of Germany, who had won three of five World Cup events in the 1,000 and narrowly missed the bronze in Lillehammer, got off to a rocket start in her heat with Timmer.
     But she lost her balance on the second turn and fell, then caromed into the padded wall and slammed hard on her shoulder. Schenk was still on her knees, hands over her head, when Timmer whizzed by on the final lap.
     Timmer had to skate the final 1 1/2 laps by herself, but not even that mattered. These games belong to the Dutch.