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Nothstein Seeks Cycling Gold

September 18, 2000

SYNDEY, Australia (AP) _ American cycling sprinter Marty Nothstein lost a close friend to a racing crash in the United States. His gold medal bid, however, looks good so far.

Nothstein, of Trexlertown, Pa., and the other Americans put aside their grief Monday night (Monday morning EDT) from the death of road racer Nicole Reinhart, who hit a tree during a race Sunday in Boston.

``I found out this morning. It was a big blow to me,″ Nothstein said, pausing between sentences to collect his thoughts. ``Nicole was a close friend. She was a very talented rider. We lost a good one.″

Nothstein is among the favorites for gold in the match sprint, and he opened the competition by beating teammate Marcelo Arrue of Woodland Hills, Calif. In the second round, Nothstein ignored a noisy partisan crowd and put his feelings for Reinhart aside to beat Australian Sean Eadie.

``It’s the Olympic Games. You have to stay focused,″ Nothstein said. ``I think Nicole is on everyone’s mind right now. But when you strap your helmet on, you’ve got to realize what you came all the way over here for.″

The U.S. Olympians honored Reinhart by wearing the name ``Nicole″ on their helmets. A sports psychologist offered grief counseling.

``He’s reinforcing that we shouldn’t feel guilty about compartmentalizing something. It’s OK not to feel bad about it right now,″ said Tanya Lindenmuth of Trexlertown, another of the cyclists who knew Reinhart well.

In the second round, Nothstein started his three-lap race riding from behind but made up the difference with a hard sprint for the final lap as the Aussies stood and yelled for their countryman.

``To me, they’re just cheering,″ Nothstein said. ``I always like to ride in front of a loud crowd.″

Arrue wasn’t eliminated until he lost to Craig MacLean of Britain in the second round of the repechage, which allows first- and second-round losers to remain alive in the tournament-style competition.

Lindenmuth also lost her first match. She was beaten by Daniela Larreal of Venezuela but recovered to win her repechage race over Kathrin Frietag of Germany and Fiona Ramage of New Zealand.

In Tuesday’s second round, Lindenmuth is paired against five-time world champion Felicia Ballanger of France. Lindenmuth, who rose through the junior ranks with Reinhart, was stunned by her friend’s death but knows she has to focus on the event.

``It’s not like I’m not dealing with it, but I’ve got to think of myself first,″ Lindenmuth said. ``I can’t do anything to change it. God, I wish I could.″

Nothstein, the silver medalist in match sprint at the Atlanta Olympics, has spent the past four years focusing on the gold in Sydney. Despite crashing during a road ride Saturday, he declared himself fit and ready.

``I’m a little stiff from the accident but that’s about it,″ he said. ``It’s just a bruise. My knee hurts a little bit, there’s a bruise and I lost a little bit of skin.″

The match sprint combines strategy and speed. Riders jockey for position over two laps, sometimes going from a dead-still to full speed in a matter of seconds in a final-lap drive for the finish line.

In the women’s 3,000-meter individual pursuit, Leontien Zijlaard of the Netherlands finished in three minutes, 33.360 seconds to win the gold medal. She beat Marion Clignet of France, who was timed in 3:38.751.

Zijlaard rode a world record in Sunday’s semifinals, breaking a four-year-old mark that had been set by Clignet.

Yvonne McGregor of Britain won the bronze medal race in 3:38.850, beating Sarah Ulmer of New Zealand by eight hundreths of a second.

The German team Guido Faust, Olaf Pollack, Daniel Becke and Jens Lehmann set an Olympic record of 4:01.735 in the team pursuit quarterfinals. It’s the seventh Olympic record, along with one world record, in cycling’s first three days.