Friday, March 28, 2008

Pitcher Lisa Fernandez, a three-time gold medalist, left off U.S.

AP Sports Writer

Lisa Fernandez, a three-time Olympic champion and perhaps
softball’s signature star for more than a decade, did not make the
U.S. team’s final 15-player roster for the Beijing Games.

“It’s like Michael Jordan getting cut from the basketball
team,” said catcher Stacey Nuveman.

The 37-year-old Fernandez was named a replacement player on the
American team, which will attempt to win its fourth straight gold
medal this summer. Fernandez was on the mound when the U.S. team
won gold in Athens, completing a historic run through the
tournament in which the Americans outscored the competition 51-1.

Fernandez was also the starting pitcher when the U.S. won it all
in Sydney in 2000. Four years earlier, she came in as a reliever
when the Americans cinched gold in Atlanta.

“I have no regrets,” Fernandez said. “I know I gave it
everything I had. There wasn’t a corner cut or a practice missed. I
just ran out of time. To me, the most important thing is that I
know I gave it everything I had. But there were certain things I
couldn’t control.”

She was making a comeback after missing three years of
international competition to start a family, and never quite got
back to form.

“I was really hoping she would get close to where she was in
2004,” said U.S. coach Mike Candrea. “She is still in my eyes the
best player who has ever played this game. I wanted her to go out
on top.”

Candrea kept only three pitchers: returning gold medalists
Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman, as well as first-time Olympian
Monica Abbott. Alicia Hollowell, a hard-throwing right-hander who
played for Candrea at Arizona, also was named a replacement player.

Candrea will only make changes to his roster if there are
injuries. He must submit it to the U.S. Olympic Committee for final
approval by July 1

Thursday, March 27, 2008

World records fall in swimming, cycling


SYDNEY, Australia —Eamon Sullivan broke the 50-meter freestyle world record again, and Olympic teammate Libby Trickett did the same over 100 meters Thursday at the Australian swimming championships in Sydney.

It was the third time in the past six weeks the men’s 50 record has been lowered, after Alexander Popov’s mark stood for nearly eight years.

Sullivan, competing in the 50 semifinals, finished in 21.41 seconds to break the mark of 21.50 established by France’s Alain Bernard at the European championships last weekend. Bernard had broken Sullivan’s previous mark of 21.56 set Feb. 17 in Sydney. Popov’s previous record was 21.64.

Sullivan missed Bernard’s 100-meter freestyle world record by 0.02 seconds on Wednesday.

“It’s sort of sweet to get this back after missing it last night,” he said. “I felt great in the warm-up tonight and great in the swim.”

Trickett, formerly Libby Lenton and competing for the first time under her married name, finished in 52.88 to better the mark of 53.30 set by Germany’s Britta Steffen in 2006.

It was the second time Trickett had broken the 53-second barrier, but her previous time of 52.99 in Sydney last year was not ratified by swimming’s governing body because she was swimming against Michael Phelps.

“I cannot say how much I wanted to do that,” Trickett said. “Ever since Duel in the Pool last year ... I’ve just wanted it so badly and to see it officially up there is just amazing.”

MANCHESTER, England — Britain broke two world records and completed a gold-medal sweep in the world track cycling championships Thursday.

The men set a team pursuit record and the women’s team broke the sprint mark.
Former rower Rebecca Romero became a two-sport champion when she emerged victorious in the individual pursuit for Britain’s fourth gold in the velodrome.

Bradley Wiggins, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas and Edward Clancy powered ahead of Denmark to finish in 3 minutes, 56.322 seconds in the 4-kilometer pursuit final.

“We knew we could step up and put together a ride,” said Wiggins, who won an individual gold Wednesday. “We had been training at that sort of speed on that track. It was just a case of putting it together on the day.

“We knew we were bang on world record pace the whole way through.”

The Danes finished in 3:59.381. Australia, which set the previous world record at the 2004 Olympics, was third in 4:00.089, ahead of New Zealand.

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade successfully defended their title in the sprint in 33.661, after setting a world record of 33.186 in qualifying.

After the first lap in the final China was ahead. Reade blamed a technical fault with the gate for delaying her start. Pendleton led the fightback and surged ahead to snatch gold. Germany edged France to take bronze.

“This is only the beginning for me,” said Pendleton, who has two more golds to defend. “It’s going to be harder this year being an Olympic year and everyone raising their game.”

“To win the title and break a world record is absolutely amazing,” added 19-year-old Reade, the world BMX champion.

Two years after transferring from boat to bicycle, Romero beat two-time world champion Sarah Hammer by almost 7 seconds.

Romero clocked 3:30.501; Hammer was timed in 3:37.006.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

USOC head Peter Ueberroth believes Olympic Games a positive force

AP Sports Writer

DANA POINT, Calif. — Peter Ueberroth believes a
person-to-person approach can change relationships among countries,
and that the Olympics have and will continue to play a significant

Some human rights advocates have criticized China as it prepares
for this year’s Beijing Olympics.

“Almost any position people take about human rights, they
should have as many ties as possible to China in the long-term,”
Ueberroth, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said
Wednesday. “That has a much more positive effect than trying to have

“But they have to be real ties — ties between athletes, ties
between business, ties between friends and tourists.”

Speaking at the World Congress of Sports, a gathering made up
mostly of sports business executives, Ueberroth urged the 500 or so
in the audience to make friends and contacts in China and predicted
the economy there will continue to grow immensely.

Ueberroth, who headed the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, doesn’t
believe the games should be politicized, and said past boycotts
affected just one group.

“Boycotts do one thing very well and only one thing: they
punish athletes,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow
didn’t affect the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan at the
time. The Soviets responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics
four years later, but Ueberroth and the L.A. committee essentially
revived the Olympic movement with the first “private-enterprise
Olympics” with money from sponsors, and those games even turned a

Ueberroth said the Moscow Olympics still were “terrific games”
and opened the Soviet Union up to the world.

Ueberroth recalled that China was on the list of 100 countries
that were supposed to boycott the 1984 games, but a man working
with the L.A. committee called him from China in the middle of the
night and said, “They’re coming.”

“I feel indebted to China,” Ueberroth said. “They came and
they won their first medal. Now they’re going to be the
host. They’re going to put on great games, open their country up more
than it’s ever been open.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Yao Ming tells fans he is targeting Olympic return

BEIJING (AP) — Yao Ming’s message to his Chinese fans was clear: He plans to play in the Beijing Olympics.

In a letter published Friday in Chinese-language newspapers, the Houston Rockets star assured fans that his operation Monday to repair a stress fracture in his left foot was successful and he’ll be fit to play in August despite missing the rest of the NBA season.

“My injury has made many of you worried and you expressed your concern and sympathy in many ways,” Yao wrote. “You have always supported me and encouraged me at the lowest point of my career. And now I want to say thank you for your care and support.”

Yao thanked officials from the Chinese Basketball Administration, family and teammates. He promised a quick return, which his doctors have said is likely. He’s expected to need four months to heal.

“The surgery was very successful and I’ll start physical recovery very soon,” he wrote. “I’ll do whatever I can to overcome the difficulty and play for China in Olympics and be in my best form.

“I’ll see you in the Olympics. Thanks, everybody.”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beijing Olympics centerpiece venue delayed by preparations for opening, closing ceremonies

BEIJING (AP) — The completion date for the Beijing Olympics’s
marquee venue has been pushed back by a month, a top organizer
said, as workers put finishing touches on the stadium that
symbolizes China’s ambitions for the games.

Work on the futuristic “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium has been
slowed by preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies and
it will not be ready until late April, Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice
president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, told the
China Daily newspaper.

“The construction of the venue and the background setting up
for the ceremonies are going on together now, which has postponed
the working progress of the Bird’s Nest,” he was quoted as saying
in Thursday editions of the state-run paper. “The Bird’s Nest will
be the last but the best venue at the Beijing Games.”

The main structure of the stadium was complete and only
finishing touches remained, organizing committee spokesman Sun
Weide told The Associated Press. A request for more details was
e-mailed to the committee’s media center, but an employee said they
did not have further information.

With enormous twisted beams wound around the exterior like
silver twigs in a nest, the 91,000 seat National Stadium is the
centerpiece of the games, a massive prestige effort by the
communist government.

Organizers have spared no effort or expense in preparing for the
Beijing Olympics, which they want to use to showcase a modern,
vibrant “new China.” They have been meticulous in planning every
little detail, down to specially breeding flowers that will bloom
in the August heat.

The construction of sparkling new venues has been a key part of
a multibillion-dollar modernization campaign for
Beijing. Anchoring an Olympic Green that also includes a modern indoor
stadium and the “Water Cube” aquatics center, the telegenic
Bird’s Nest is likely to be prominently featured in Olympic
broadcasts around the world.

There have been few venue construction delays on the often-bumpy
road to the games. While China has had to defend against criticism
on everything from its dirty air to its diplomatic policies in
Darfur, every venue but the Bird’s Nest was completed on schedule
by the end of last year.

The process has had hiccups, however. Two workers died during
construction of the Bird’s Nest, and a planned retractable roof had
to be scrapped to cut costs.

There was no suggestion that the Bird’s Nest would not be ready
in time for the Games, which are five months away.

Jiang did not elaborate on the preparations for the opening and
closing ceremonies — directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the
details are top secret.

Speculation among ordinary Chinese abounds on the Internet, with
many guessing at how the Olympic flame will be lit during the
Aug. 8 opening ceremony. A columnist for the Chinese edition of Sports
Illustrated joked that Beijing’s potent “erguotou” liquor (some
varieties are 60 percent alcohol) should help set the Olympic
cauldron ablaze.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

CAS to hold March 19 hearing to resolve Asian Olympic handball qualifying dispute

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport will hold a hearing March 19 to resolve the Asian Olympic handball qualifying dispute.

CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb said a binding ruling will then be given within days of the hearing, allowing Asian teams to take part in further qualifying matches in Europe from March 28.

The Asian federation and the national associations of Kazakhstan and Kuwait have challenged a decision by the International Handball Federation, the sport’s governing body, to order replays of qualifying matches for the Beijing Olympics following questionable referee decisions.

“I think we will go forward positively from this,” IHF managing director Hala Helmy said of the hearing date. “We have three women’s qualifying tournaments taking place at the same time (March 28-30) all over Europe. In each of the venues, four teams are taking part and two will go to the Olympics.”

Asian men’s teams will play in Olympic qualifying tournaments from May 30-June 1.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Austrian skier has his lower leg amputated after crash

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Austrian skier Matthias Lanzinger’s lower left leg was amputated Tuesday because of complications from two broken bones in a crash at a World Cup race.

Lanzinger broke his shin and fibula Sunday during a super-G. The double fracture severely damaged blood vessels, hampering circulation in the 27-year-old skier’s leg.

The Austrian ski federation said the surgery Monday night was only partly successful and left doctors no other option in an effort to avoid further risks.

“The circulation could not be stabilized,” said doctor Thomas Hoelzenbein, who was flown in from Austria Monday to lead the operation.

Organizers of the race in Kvitfjell, Norway, were criticized because no medical helicopter was available. Lanzinger was flown to a hospital in Lillehammer in a tourist helicopter, and later was brought to Oslo.

“The lacking safety measures at these races are shocking,” Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer told the Austria Presse Agency on Tuesday. “I can’t understand how a World Cup race could be organized at such a low safety level.”

FIS general secretary Sarah Lewis said World Cup events are the responsibility of the hosting national federation.