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U.S. Speedskaters Test Olympic Oval

February 13, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Four U.S. speedskaters had only high praise after testing the ice at the oval that will be used for the 2002 Olympics.

``Truly awesome,″ Becky Sundstrom of Glen Ellyn, Ill., a 1998 Winter Games competitor, said Monday.

Marc Norman, oval operations manager and a former speedskater, said, ``Wait a week and it will be really fast.″

By then, air bubbles and impurities trapped in the ice will have been worked out. The surface will be purer and harder _ in time for the World Single Distance Championships on March 9-11 at the Kearns oval.

Norman said that by the Olympics, the track will be the world’s fastest. It has wider curves, allowing the racers to maintain their speeds as they turn.

He said the oval is the world’s highest indoors at 4,675 feet above sea level. That’s more than 1,000 feet higher than Calgary, site of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The higher elevation means less air resistance for the skaters and less oxygen available to freeze into the ice, making it harder, denser and faster.

Construction of the oval was beset with problems. A roof cable snapped, causing a beam to fall and forcing Layton Construction to redesign the roof system.

Then, late last year, Layton crews had to rip up the oval’s concrete base just days after it was poured. Some of the cooling coils buried in the wet concrete had floated too close to the surface.

The second pour went without a hitch. Concrete cured without cracking and oval officials began cooling the surface around Feb. 1.

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