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Posted 02 May 2002   For week ended March 01, 2002
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 16Mar02
By Rosemary Pollock
Download to My Handheld!

Kazakhstan Benefits from Mormon Kindness

PROVO, UTAH -- Ten years after the Soviet Union collapsed, Kazakhstan developed its own country. A few weeks ago, the Kazakhstan womens hockey team travelled 6,000 miles to Salt Lake City to compete in the XIX Winter Olympic Games and developed a lasting friendship with their new found friends in Utah. Their final game with China put them in eighth and final place in the women's tournament and in first place in the hearts of Utah.

"They were like our little sisters," said volunteer Shannon Arnoldsen, who took three years of Russian at BYU and felt a kinship with the women from the impoverished country. The Kazakhstan women's hockey team attended the games on a shoestring budget but it didn't take long for those around them to notice and find a way to help. Donations started rolling in as soon as the word went out.

"Sweden gets off the bus with matching berets and Versace outfits," said Matthew Hemmert, a volunteer who supervises team transportation. "Then Kazakhstan gets off in hospital scrubs or sweat pants with holes in them." The bus driver added to the sobering tale the news that they spent 10 minutes shopping at the local mall. The players returned with the news, "Too expensive."

One team member came with $50 for her 17-day stay, according to Provo hospital spokesman, Anton Garrity. The hospital gave the team a luncheon before leaving. "Focusing on what they don't have is a little hard on them," team host Jenny Davis said. "They want the focus to be on how hard they work. They don't feel like they're poor. They don't feel like they're the have-nots."

The bookstore at Brigham Young University donated sweatshirts. The Olympic spirit spread through Provo and soon arena volunteers chipped in and bought the players Salt Lake 2002 fanny packs. Clothing poured in and about $1,5000 was raised. Children drew Valentine cards for the players and while the team was loosing their second consecutive game by the score of 7-0, the volunteers were putting the cards along with gifts on the Kazakhstan's team bus.

"I just told them we were inspired by their courage and the obstacles they overcame to be here," Arnoldsen said. Players broke down when they saw the gifts and posed for photos with the volunteers. Gift bags were filled with Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD's and caps knitted by members of a Provo ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Team members made personal sacrifices to attend the Games, said IHC Administrator Mary Ann Young. "They came with limited resources to participate in these games." "They may not go home with the gold, but they will go home with the hearts of this community," Young added.

Natalya Yakovchuk scored the only Olympic goal on Friday. "I am glad to have this opportunity to thank the citizens of America for the exceedingly warm reception, excellent hospitality, the way they treat our team, which is especially wonderful because we know we're not known as the best team," Yakovchuk said. "Thank you on behalf of our team."

"I'm honored the team touched the heart of the people here," said Alexandr Maltsev, the Kazakhstan women's team coach.


Kazakhstan Women Toast Of Salt Lake
Tampa FL Tribune 20Feb02 P2
By Martin Fennelly

Kazakhstan team gets Utah embrace
Deseret News 21Feb02 P2
By Rodger L. Hardy: Deseret News staff writer

A little kindness goes a long way at Olympics
Provo UT Daily Herald pg9 16Feb02 P2


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