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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Haakonsen missing after boycott

     YAMANOUCHI, Japan (AP) -- Snowboarding's halfpipe competition is making its Olympic debut without its legend.
     The men's and women's halfpipe -- a freestyle event where riders perform jumps and tricks in a huge snow trough -- is snowboarding's showcase.
     But three-time world champion Terje Haakonsen of Norway, known as "The Legend," is boycotting the Olympics in a dispute over who would organize the competition.
     "He's the best in the world and he's been that way for a long time. He forced it very far and he's been very successful in the sport," said Canadian halfpipe competitor Derek Heidt.
     "If I were in his shoes and had been that successful, I would probably stand for what I believe in," Heidt said.
     Haakonsen, a three-time halfpipe world champion of the International Snowboarding Federation, said the International Olympic Committee was wrong to have the international skiing federation rather than the snowboarding federation organize his sport as an Olympic event.
     He even likened the IOC to organized crime.
     "When I say mafia, I mean what most people see in the word: People who take over control but never let anyone have an inside look at what they are doing," Haakonsen told Sweden's TV4 in December.
     IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch has brushed aside Haakonsen's criticisms.
     With Haakonsen absent, another Norwegian, Daniel Franck, is among the top men in halfpipe, along with Switzerland's Fabien Rohrer.
     Stine Brun Kjeldas of Norway and another Swiss, Anita Schwaller, rule among the women.
     The U.S. team needs to rebound from a near-wipeout in women's giant slalom and a mediocre finish in the men's event. The best finish by an American in the giant slalom was a sixth by Christopher Klug.
     At least Klug finished. All four U.S. women fell on their first runs.
     So it's up to people like Ross Powers of South Londonderry, Vt., and Michele Taggart of Salem, Ore., to improve the U.S. snowboard record.