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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Snowboarding, U.S. look to rebound

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) - In snowboarding, both the sport and the U.S. team need to rebound.
     Competition resumes Thursday amid increased scrutiny after the sport's first Olympic gold medal winner, Ross Rebagliati, was stripped of his prize. The winner of Monday's giant slalom tested positive for marijuana.
     Snowboarding has been trying to spruce up its renegade image, an the men's and women's halfpipe -- a freestyle event where riders perform jumps and tricks in a huge snow trough -- was expected to be a visual showcase for the sport.
     Rob Roy, a coach for the U.S. snowboarding team, saidthe sport was "striving for legitimacy".
     "I think the public sort of looks at this and thinks, 'Ah -- snowboarders are all wild and crazy," he said. "That's not good."
     The U.S. performance in Olympic snowboarding hasn't been good, either.
     After a near-wipeout in women's giant slalom and a mediocre finish in the men's event, the American team needs a boost. 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.
     Powers may have a better chance in the absence of the superstar of the sport, Terje Haakonsen of Norway.
     Haakonsen, known as "The Legend," is a three-time half-pipe world champion of the International Snowboarding Federation. He's 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. at a very level. 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 have been that successful, I would probably stand for what I believe in."
     Haakonsen said the International Olympic Committee was wrong to have FIS, the international skiing federation, organize snowboarding as an Olympic event.
     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.