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    Saturday, February 7, 1998

    Parra's Olympic experience ends before it starts

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- American speedskater Derek Parra already has felt the joy and pain that come with being an Olympian. What he won't get to experience is the competition.
     In a ruling that infuriated U.S. speedskating officials, Parra was knocked out of the 5,000-meter race today over a dispute on how to fill out an entry form.
     "I'm really sad. This really bothers me," said Parra, the last person to leave the M-wave arena this afternoon. "It's like somebody saying, 'Here's the keys to a new car.' Then you get to the driveway to leave the dealership and it's, 'Nope, can't have 'em."'
     Parra, who made the U.S. team in the 5,000 meters, came to Nagano knowing he might not race. His World Cup time ranked 41st, and only 32 skaters are competing in Sunday's event.
     By the Tuesday entry deadline, however, enough skaters ranked ahead of him had not entered. He was jogging around the inside of the oval during practice when coach Gerard Kemkers yelled across the track, "Derek, you're in."
     The celebration didn't last long. By Friday, after Parra had spent about $30 in phone calls back home, the United States learned that Kazakstan had made an error in its entry form.
     Tron Espeli of the International Speedskating Union said Kazakstan unintentionally entered its skaters as substitutes -- meaning they could only replace their countrymen. Once the mistake was caught, Parra was replaced by Sergey Kaznacheyev, who ranked three spots ahead.
     "You write up rules, explain to all teams how to fill out entry forms, then come to a guy like Derek and tell him his Olympic dream comes true," Kemkers said. "And then you take everything away."
     Espeli said the Americans should not have been told that Tuesday's preliminary list of 32 skaters was official.
     "This created some confusion," he said. "There is no way to say the U.S. did it wrong and Kazakstan did it right, or the other way around."
     Parra didn't call his Olympic experience a total waste. He did get to mingle in the Olympic village and glide around the M-wave oval with the best speedskaters in the world.
     "What's that Olympic saying? It's not whether you win or lose, it's the chance to compete? That's it for me," he said. "Some people want to win. I just want to skate. But just being a part of it ... the experience has been unreal."