Some Olympic Athletes May Go to Combat

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Salt Lake City, Utah Sept. 20, 2001 (AP)--Kristina Sabasteanski is a biathlete who probably will make the 2002 U.S. Olympic team.

She's also an Army sergeant.

Sabasteanski is among at least 18 athletes enrolled in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, which pays for training in exchange for service in the military.

So while she and others prepare for the Olympics, they also realize they might instead have to go to war in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

``We are soldiers first,'' Sabasteanski said.

The program's participants are mostly world-class bobsled and biathlon competitors, and many live and train in Utah in preparation for the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Max Cobb, program director for the U.S. Biathlon Association, said training is ``as normal as possible'' under the circumstances.

``It is hard for athletes. The war is pretty high on their minds,'' U.S. biathlon coach Algas Shalna said.

Jill Krause, a top biathlete, is with an aviation battalion in the Minnesota National Guard. Lawton Redman, also a biathlete, is an infantry sergeant with the Vermont National Guard.

``I care about my country,'' Redman said. ``I would have absolutely no problem'' being called to duty and skipping the Olympics.

Bill Spencer, a biathlete who competed in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, was an infantry officer for the Army, which deferred his assignment to Vietnam so he could compete in the Winter Games.

``Your first duty is your job, whatever it might be,'' he said. ``The athletics are certainly a bonus.''

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press