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    Friday, January 30, 1998

    U.S. Speedskating gets shot of cash

     MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Financially strapped U.S. Speedskating got a boost Friday when a subsidiary of telephone company Ameritech pledged $1.2 million to support the team over the next five years.
     "We are pleased and proud to support U.S. Speedskating, America's most decorated Winter Olympic sport," Mary Tudela, president of SecurityLink from Ameritech, said during a news conference at the Pettit National Ice Center. "Our sponsorship ensures that this proud tradition will continue."
     It is the first major sponsorship for speedskating, which has generated more U.S. medals than any other winter Olympic sport but has been beset by financial burdens.
     Milwaukee is the home base for the U.S. speedskating team, which includes world sprint bronze medalist Chris Witty.
     "This is big for us," U.S. Speedskating president Bob Cushman said.
     Earlier this month, Nick Thometz, program director for U.S. Speedskating, bemoaned the lack of funding for American skaters.
     "We're always trying to find more money," he said. "Every sport is. We get X amount of money from the USOC, and hey're our major sponsor. We need to find resources outside of that to develop more opportunities."
     Thometz said he had to take about a 10 percent budget cut this year.
     "Going into an Olympic year, that's not an easy thing to do," he said. "I don't want to see that continue in the future. I want to take a step forward, not a step back."