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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 16:47 GMT
Ask Anna - Part One
BBC Sport journalist Anna Thompson
Hi, I'm Anna Thompson and I will be reporting from the Winter Olympics for the BBC Sport website.

I'll be following the big stories at the Games and especially the British hopefuls in their various events.

But I also want to be your 'eyes and ears' in Italy.

And I will do my best to find answers to any questions you have, or even go and report on something particular if many of you want me to.

So if there is a particular athlete you would like to know more about, an event, news story or issue you think I should follow up, or you have a question about the host venues, then do let me know.

Thanks - and enjoy the Games,


Q. Why is the skeleton called the skeleton?
William, Folkestone

A. It was given its name in 1892 because people thought the stripped-down sled, made only of metal, looked like a skeleton!

Q. I've been reading about the cross-country skiers not been able to compete because of high red blood counts - could you explain more about this?
Emily Smith, Manchester

Why was the Ethiopan skier suspended - Can you explain?.
Dawit, USA

A. The International Ski Federation said athletes with high haemoglobin levels are at risk of their blood clotting so it was unsafe for them, including Ethiopia's Robel Teklemariam, to race.

Levels can increase naturally at high altitude or due to dehydration but they can also be a result of EPO doping or a blood transfusion.

The five-day sanction is a sufficient length of time to allow blood levels to normalise, if they were due to high altitude or dehydration.

However, if the high blood count is due to EPO or a blood transfusion (which is also illegal) the levels will still be high and a urine test will then be carried out.

Q. Since skiing from the age of three, I have developed an incredible amount of confidence on the snow. I'm eager to compete in some British competitions but I don't know where to start! Can you help?
Daniel, Essex

A. There is a competition circuit around the dry slopes of Britain and a British championships normally held in France for all kinds of age groups.

The best people to get in touch with are Snowsport GB and they will be able to give you all the information you need. Their phone number is 0131 445 7676.

Good luck and maybe we will see you at a future Winter Olympics.

Q. Is Alain Baxter competing this year and why wasn't he given his medal back when he was found not to have cheated?
James, Livingston

A. Alain is indeed competing in the slalom at the Turin Olympics (his event is live on the BBC on 25 February).

He was not able to get his medal back because the International Olympic Committee has a strict liability rule and because Alain failed a drugs test his result was wiped from the records so, in effect, he did not win a medal.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Baxter was not a cheat but it could not overrule the IOC's decision.

Q. Why aren't there any female ski jumpers?
Alan, Kings Lynn

A. There are female ski jumpers but as yet they do not compete in the Winter Olympics.

They do compete on what is called the Continental Cup circuit, which has events in Europe, USA and Japan.

The reason why they have not been included in the Winter Games is because there are too few women from too few countries.

The top 10 ranked women are from just six countries. USA and Norway each have three competitors in the top 10.

But there is a movement to include them at the 2010 Games, which are being held in Vancouver. So watch this space!

Q. Who designed the coats and hats/scarves for the GB olympic team in the opening ceremonies? And where can I get them?
Brie, Canada

A. The British Olympic Association has told me Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto designed the outfits and they have been made by Adidas. However, I do not think they are on public sale - yet.

Q. I know it's a bizarre question but watching some of the Winter Olympic sports they seem very dangerous, has any competitor ever been killed?
Lois McConnell, Lancashire

A. No Winter Olympic athlete has been killed during an event but the 1964 Games in Innsbruck were overshadowed by the deaths of two competitors before it began.

British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski was killed during practice two weeks before on the Igls Olympic track.

And Australian skier Ross Milne, who was only 19, was also killed during training for the same Games. A minute's silence was held for both of them at the opening ceremony.

Q. Are there any Greek athletes taking part in Turin?
Mary Pracock, Reading

A. There are eight Greek athletes taking part; Tryfonas Antonakakis, Stavros Christoforidis, Vassilis Dimitriadis, Zefs Isariotis, Magdalini Kalomirou, Grigoris Moschovakos, Panagiota Tsakiri, Lefteris Fafalis.

And they will be competing in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Q. Could you tell me please why is there no four-woman bobsleigh event in the Winter Olympics? The men have both the two and four-man event. 
Laura Butt, Amersham, Bucks

A. I asked my BBC Sport colleague Colin Bryce about this (he competed in the bobsleigh at the 2002 Olympics) and he believes in time there will be women's four-man bob at the Olympics.

At the moment there are not enough top class women from enough nations to take part in four-man competitions at either Europa Cup and then World Cup level.

There is also the logistics problem of building bigger sleds and transporting them around the world. Colin assures me it is nothing to do with women drivers having to steer bigger bobsleighs!

Q. I heard there are some really wacky competitors in the US team. Can you tell us more?
Claire, UK

A. Most teams have their colourful characters but it is true the US certainly has quite a number.

Mogul skier Toby Dawson was abandoned as a baby on the doorstep of a hut in South Korea - and raised by two ski instructors in Colorado.

Figure skater Jonny Weir loves his over-the-top costumes. He recently competed covered in feathers, with a fishnet on one arm and a red glove shaped like the head of a swan.

Snowboarder Shaun White's nickname is the Flying Tomato because of his red hair and skier Bode Miller lives an unconventional lifestyle and likes courting controversy with some of his comments, such as talking about racing while he still had alcohol in his system.

Q. Why is there not a GB team in ice hockey?
William Roe, St Albans

A. Great Britain opted out of the qualifying process for the Olympic Games. It was felt Britain did not have a strong enough pool of players to challenge for Olympic qualification.

GB is currently ranked 23rd in the world and it is the top 11 nations, plus the hosts, who compete in an Olympics. The Elite League in Britain is developing talent, and in future Winter Olympics Britain could try for qualification, possibly at the 2014 Games.

Q. We just heard on the BBC that an Ethiopian skier, Robel Teklemariam, is participating. We are excited. Could you pass on our best and give us more information on him? Thanks. Yohannes and family.
Yohannes Kifle, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A. Well, Ethiopia were due to be represented for the first time - in the cross-country skiing, although Teklemariam is one of 12 competitors who have been given five-day bans after tests showed high levels of red blood cells.

He was born in Addis Ababa in 1974 and moved to New York in America in 1983. He got into skiing after watching the 1980 Games from Lake Placid, and went to boarding school in Colorado.

Teklemariam is a qualified alpine ski and snowboard instructor, who had to lobby the Ethiopian Olympic Committee, International Ski Federation and Ethiopian Ministry of Youth Sports to be able to compete in Turin.

His brother Yoseph has helped him out and he is now vice-chairman of the Ethiopian National Ski Federation.

You can read more on Robel Teklemariam who could still compete later in the Games.

Q. Is it too late to get tickets? How do you get tickets for sell-out events like figure skating?
Paul Phillips, Manchester

A. There certainly are tickets left for most of the events. The figure skating will be tricky as it is very popular and is practically sold out. But organisers have hinted more tickets could be released. Best to check the official website for availability.

Q. Will the BBC be showing the men's ice hockey live? As a hockey fan, I enjoyed the atmosphere at our local rink when the Games at Salt Lake in 2002 were happening.
Steve, Bracknell

A. You can follow the men's and women's ice hockey on BBC interactive (just press your red button!) - selected games will be live. The BBC Sport website will also be streaming the coverage, although this is only available to UK broadband users. You can download listings for the interactive schedule.

Q. What year did snowboarding become an Olympic sport?
Lynne, Illinois USA

A. Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998 when half-pipe and parallel giant slalom (PGS) were featured.

The PGS was originally a single boarder racing against the clock but the format for two riders to go head-to-head was introduced at Salt Lake City in 2002.

This year snowboard cross has been added for the first time. This is like moto-cross on boards with riders racing over jumps and turns.

In the first two rounds, boarders race against the clock. Then the top 32 go in heats of four, with the top two in each qualifying for the next round, until the last four contest the Olympic final. Our event guide has more details.

Q. Why did you choose to do a report on the Winter Olympics? What are you looking forward to the most?
Emma, Woodside

A. I find winter sports exciting and it is a privilege to be covering the Turin Games for the BBC. You cannot beat watching the events live and appreciating the bravery of competitors flinging themselves down slopes or tracks.

I pretty much love all winter sports but my favourites are alpine skiing, snowboarding, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton.

I was never a big curling fan before the 2002 Games but, like many others, became engrossed and I was fortunate enough to be at the Ogden Ice Sheet when Great Britain won curling gold. It was amazing and something I will never forget.

Q. Two questions actually. First, why in the Winter Olympics do we have a United Kingdom team and yet in the Commonwealth Games there will be a Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland team?

Secondly, we all remember Australia's bizarre gold medal in Salt Lake City, and would like to know whether any of the other countries that have a distinct lack of snow have an outside chance of a medal?
Harry Hayfield, Ffosyffin, Ceredigion, Wales

A. Hi Harry, I've spoken to the British Olympic Association about this and they said the Commonwealth Games organisers recognise all the home nations ie England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (plus Isle of Man and Jersey) but the International Olympic Committee only recognises Great Britain as a whole and will not allow individual home nations to compete.

When you talk about nations lacking in natural snow with chances of a medal, well look no further than Team GB. We don't have any bobsleigh tracks in Britain, yet with the skeleton and the bobsleigh we could win a medal. Our skiers and snowboarders have an outside chance too!


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