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Thursday, September 28, 2000

Australian walker booted near finish


 SYDNEY (AP-CP) -- Australian Jane Saville headed into the Olympic Stadium tunnel with a huge lead in the 20-kilometre walk, awaiting the roar of a jubilant home-town crowd. Instead, she left the tunnel in dismay.

 Saville was disqualified in the closing seconds of the nearly 90-minute walk Thursday, allowing China's Wang Liping to capture the gold medal. Kjersti Plaetzer of Norway won silver and Maria Vasco of Spain took the bronze.

 Saville already had been given two white warning cards, and knew a third "lifting" infraction -- not maintaining contact with the ground -- would warrant a red card and automatic disqualification. The woman walking with her in the final stages of the race, Elisabetta Perrone of Italy, already had been disqualified.

 As she headed into the tunnel, a judge suddenly thrust a red card toward Saville. She burst into tears. She was led away, inconsolable.

 Janice McCaffrey, 40 of Calgary was also disqualified.

 "I was as shocked as anybody," an emotional McCaffrey told CBC. "I actually felt I was going quite slowly and I was surprised at the judges.

 "After 20 years of race walking, I've never been disqualified at this big a meet. The coaches are all shaking their heads, we don't know why."

 McCaffey said she was in shock at watching some of the top walkers get pulled over.

 "I was in tears watching Jane Saville get pulled out just before she entered the tunnel as the top Australian. I know her heartbreak. I just wanted to finish and I'm very disappointed."

 Wang won in one hour 29 minutes five seconds in the inaugural 20-kilometre walk for women at the Olympics. The event replaced the 10-kilometre walk that was contested at the 1992 and 1996 Games.






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