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    Sunday, February 8, 1998

    Boutiette sets American record

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- On a day when the Americans made progress in long-distance speedskating, they fell further behind the rest of the world.
     KC Boutiette of Tacoma, Wash., set an American record Sunday in the 5,000 meters, the first race of the Olympics at M-Wave. The time of 6 minutes, 39.67 seconds broke his own mark of 6:40.95 set two months ago.
     But Boutiette finished more than 11 seconds off the world-record pace of Dutch star Gianni Romme, who captured the gold medal with a stunning time of 6:22.20 -- more than eight seconds ahead of the record he held at the start of the race.
     Silver medalist Rintje Ritsma of Holland and bronze medalist Bart Veldkamp of Belgium also eclipsed the previous world record by more than two seconds. Boutiette wound up in 14th place and the other American in the race, Dave Tamburrino of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was 16th in 6:41.19.
     Boutiette, a former in-line champion known for his dyed blonde hair, pierced tongue and the Olympic rings tattoo on his left ankle, was a surprise member of the U.S. team in 1994, when he qualified just three months after taking up ice skating.
     The 27-year-old stuck with his new sport over the past four years and came to Nagano as America's best male distance skater, though his best medal chance will likely come in the 1,500.
     Tamburrino, 25, followed the more traditional speedskating route, taking up the sport at age 7 and working his way through the ranks to earn a spot on the 1994 Olympic team. He finished 22nd in the 1,500 at Lillehammer.
     The American men have not won a 5,000 medal since Eric Heiden's gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, when he became the only speedskater to sweep all five races in the Olympics.
     The Americans had only two competitors in this year's 5,000, though they brought three skaters to Nagano. The International Skating Union allowed a skater from Kazakstan to enter the event instead of Derek Parra, despite U.S. claims that the Asian country had not filled out its entry form correctly.
     Sergey Kaznacheyev, racing instead of Parra, finished 26th in the 32-man field.