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    Monday, February 16, 1998

    Timmer sets record, wins gold

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- The M-Wave was full of surprises Monday -- a shocking world record for the Dutch, and a speedskating medal for the Americans.
     Marianne Timmer of the Netherlands, who had failed to crack the top three in the 1,500 meters during the World Cup season, broke the world record with a time of 1 minute, 57.58 seconds to give the Dutch their seventh medal of the Nagano Games.
     The silver went to Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, who had to skate alone in the final pairing. Chris Witty of West Allis, Wis., ended America's medal drought by winning the bronze.
     Witty's best chance figured to be the 1,000 meters later this week, an event in which she holds the world record. After a lackluster race in the 500, she said she was starting to feel the pressure of being a medal contender.
     It didn't show in the 1,500, when she blazed past Annamarie Thomas of the Netherlands down the stretch and finished in 1:58.97, an American record.
     Timmer was an even greater surprise.
     All of the Dutch dominance at the M-Wave had been by the men. Even in her own country, Timmer finished second in the Dutch sprint championships.
     Going off seven pairs from the end, the crowd sensed something special during her final two laps. Timmer's final lap was 32.25, the best of the day.
     She dropped her jaw in disbelief when the world-record time flashed on the digital clock. The previous mark was 1:57.87, set by Catriona LeMay Doan in Calgary last year.
     Timmer threw her hand over the back of her head and tearfully leapt into the arms of Dutch sprint coach Peter Mueller, falling to the ice.
     Even when Timmer got up, a dazed look washed over her face and she looked wobbly on her skates for the first time. The only thing left was to see if anyone could beat her.
     It was the third time in seven races that a world record had fallen in the M-Wave. Only this time, it held.
     LeMay Doan was on pace to beat her through the first 700 meters, but faded and finished 13th.
     The last hope was Niemann-Stirnemann the most dominant female speedskater of the decade who has won Olympic gold in every distance race but the 1,500.
     But the 31-year-old German caught a bad break when Cindy Overland of Canada pulled out, leaving Niemann-Stirnemann to skate alone -- no one to chase on the outside, the clock her only gauge.
     Her time of 1:58.66 wasn't enough, and Timmer celebrated an unlikely gold.
     Still, it was the seventh Olympic medal for Niemann-Stirnemann. A medal in the 5,000 -- she's the favorite to win -- would tie her with Karin Enke-Kania of Germany as the most decorated female speedskater in Olympic history.
     The Dutch have now won seven speedskating medals in Nagano, after winning only four in Lillehammer in 1994.
     Witty kept the Americans from being shutout in speedskating medals for the first time since the 1984 games in Sarajevo. She had been pinning her hopes on the 1,000 after finishing 10th in the 500.
     "This is a learning experience," Witty said after the 500. "I know I have skated in the Olympics before, but this is the first time I'm a medal contender."
     Now, she is a medalist in the sport that has brought the United States more success than any other in the winter games -- 48 medals in all.
     The Americans got another top-10 finish from Jennifer Rodriguez of Miami, whose time of 2:00.97 was good for eighth.
     Becky Sundstrum of Glen Ellyn, Ill., was 12th with a 2:01.81, while Moira D'Andrea of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., went around in 2:02.47 and finished 14th.

     Speedskating Results
     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Results Monday from the women's 1,500 meter speedskating medal event at the Winter Olympics:

     1, Marianne Timmer, Netherlands, 1:57.58.
     2, Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, Germany, 1:58.66.
     3, Chris Witty, West Allis, Wis., 1:58.97.
     4, Emese Hunyady, Austria, 1:59.19.
     5, Anna Friesinger, Germany, 1:59.20.
     6, Annamarie Thomas, Netherlands, 1:59.29.
     7, Claudia Pechstein, Germany, 1:59.46.
     8, Jennifer Rodriguez, Miami, 2:00.97.
     9, Svetlana Bazhanova, Russia, 2:01.54.
     10, Natalya Polozkova, Russia, 2:01.56.
     11, Lyudmila Prokasheva, Kazakstan, 2:01.65.
     12, Becky Sundstrom, Glen Ellyn, Ill., 2:01.81.
     13, Catriona LeMay Doan, Canada, 2:02.19.
     14, Moira DiAndrea, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 2:02.47.
     15, Chiharu Nozaki, Japan, 2:02.78.
     16, Aki Tonoike, Japan, 2:02.84.
     17, Anette Tonsberg, Norway, 2:03.03.
     18, Tonny De Jong, Netherlands, 2:03.19.
     19, Tatiana Trapeznikova, Russia, 2:03.25.
     20, Varvara Barysheva, Russia, 2:03.34.
     21, Mie Uehara, Japan, 2:03.37.
     22, Barbara De Loor, Netherlands, 2:04.05.
     23, Shiho Kusunose, Japan, 2:04.38.
     24, Ingrid Liepa, Canada, 2:04.60.
     25, Bak Eun-bi, South Korea, 2:05.23.
     26, Lee Kyung-nam, South Korea, 2:05.59.
     27, Krisztina Egyed, Hungary, 2:05.79.
     28, Song Li, China, 2:05.98.
     29, Isabella Doucet, Canada, 2:06.45.
     30, Emese Doerfler-Antal, Austria, 2:07.57.
     31, Li Xuesong, China, 2:08.05.
     32, Ilonda Luse, Latvia, 2:08.71.
     33, Svetlana Konstantinova, Ukraine, 2:08.76.
     34, Mihaela Dascalu, Romania, 2:08.77.
     NR, Cindy Overland, Canada, DNS.