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Ice Hockey Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 15:22 GMT
Tragedy bonds team
US ice hockey star Kathleen Kauth
US star Kathleen Kauth lost her father on September 11
One of the the key factors in the US women's ice-hockey team's bid for Olympic gold is the team spirit forged in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks.

Hockey star Kathleen Kauth was one of thousands of Americans left grieving.

Kauth's father, Donald, was killed in the first World Trade Center tower to be struck by a hijacked aeroplane when the disastrous events began to unfold.

Life for Kauth will never be the same again.

When you go through an experience like that together it helps bring the team together

Sarah Tueting, US goaltender

But US coach Ben Smith says the whole team was touched by the remarkable bravery with which she has faced up to life.

"It was a volatile, emotional time," said Smith whose side had only just returned home from an exhibition tournament in China when the disaster took place.

Although Kauth did not make the final selection for the team in Salt Lake City, her team-mates say she has been responsible for an important change in locker-room mentality.

Goaltender Sarah Tueting insists the whole squad is now far closer, and head into the Utah Games with an unbeatable team spirit.

Team bonding

"When you go through an experience like that together, it helps bring the team together," Tueting said.

"I know all my team-mates better now."

Canada, one of the main rivals for what will be only the second ever women's ice hockey gold medal, were also moved by Kauth's ordeal.

The two teams could well meet in the final on 21 February when the US look to retain the title they won in Nagano.

But kind words and handwritten condolence letters were sent across the border to Kauth when the Canadian team heard of the tragic news.

And while Kauth will not be present on the ice, any success her team-mates achieve at the Games will be in large part down to her.

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