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    Tuesday, June 10, 1997

    Animal Snowboard team's mascot

     NEW YORK (AP) -- Animal, the high-energy, raspberry-haired drummer of the Muppets band, was introduced Tuesday as the mascot for the U.S. Snowboard Team.
     Snowboarding is one of the newest sports to be added to the Winter Olympics for the Nagano, Japan Games in February.
     Officials of Jim Henson Productions, creator of the popular Muppets troupe which includes Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, said it was the first time a Muppet has been designated as an official mascot for a team. The company plans a global merchandising campaign to expand the program.
     "Animal's got the perfect attitude for snowboarding and he's going to be a great fit for us," Anton Pogue of Hood River, Ore., slalom bronze medalist in the 1997 World Championships, said during a press conference at an industry licensing show. "We're counting on him to be in Nagano with us."
     Halfpipe specialist Rob Kingwill of Jackson, Wyo., another World Championships bronze medalist, added, "Snowboarding is an individual sport and Animal's definitely the most individual of the Muppets. I'm really stoked about being teamed with him."
     Tom Kelly, vice president of public relations for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the national federation for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, said, "This is the start of a great opportunity for us. Animal's going to help us reach beyond the traditional winter sports audience and allow us to bring the excitement of this new sport to millions of new potential enthusiasts."
     Snowboarding, which includes alpine (racing) and freestyle (halfpipe) events, joins the Olympic lineup in Nagano with men's and women's giant slalom races and halfpipe contests.