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Bleszynski Courting a Relapse : Olympic Festival: Worn down by three events last year, she comes back for more.


FOREST PARK, Mo. — Tennis players who win at the U.S. Olympic Festival are asking for trouble.

The top players often end up playing two, sometimes three matches a day as mixed doubles is followed by singles competition, which is followed by regular doubles.

The more you win, the more you play, leaving precious little rest for the weary.

Ania Bleszynski learned that lesson the hard way last year when the heat and humidity of San Antonio, Tex., left her wilted in the medal rounds.

Well Ania, welcome to the St. Louis area.

Temperatures that soared into the high 90s with humidity to match greeted Bleszynski, 17, when the Festival opened Friday with mixed doubles at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center.

But apparently Bleszynski is a glutton for punishment. She teamed with Mark Loughrin of Greendale, Wis., to down Laura Guignon of St. Louis and Jordan Wile of Long Island, N.Y., 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, in the first round.

Bleszynski, from Thousand Oaks, plays mixed doubles and singles today as the Festival gets underway in earnest with competition in archery, basketball, bowling, boxing, canoe and kayak racing, diving, equestrian, field hockey, ice skating, roller skating, shooting, soccer, softball, swimming, team handball and wrestling.

Bleszynski and 88 other athletes from the Valley and Ventura County regions are among the more than 3,000 participants scheduled to take part in competition that runs through July 10 at venues in and around St. Louis.

Only six states--California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas--boast larger contingents.

As usual, field hockey accounts for the largest group of local athletes. Of the 60 players split into four teams, 23 are from Ventura County and another is from Northridge. When the South plays the West on Tuesday, 20 of the 30 players in uniform will be from the Valley area.

Fernando Vargas, reigning U.S. amateur lightweight boxing champion, and former Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Alice Brown, Victoria Herazo, Mohammed Barakat and David Spaulding are the top names in the local contingent.

Vargas, 16, from Oxnard, is the youngest boxer in the field of 48 combatants. He will face Salvador Jasso of Los Angeles in his opening bout on Sunday.

Joyner-Kersee, from Canoga Park, and Alice Brown, a former Cal State Northridge teammate of Kersee's, are scheduled to run the 100 meters a week from today.

Herazo, from Valencia, is set to compete in the 10,000-meter walk on Friday. Spaulding, who learned to paddle in Ventura Harbor, will race this weekend.

Also starting competition today are archers Mark Hainline and Justin Huish of Simi Valley and Teri Chang of Northridge; canoe racers Joe Harper and Jim Werland of Ventura; divers Nancy Janik and Ricky Wood of Simi Valley; roller skater Jill Moreno of Oxnard, and swimmers John Jenkins of La Crescenta, Nicole Beck, Rebecca Gilman and Mandy Walz of Ventura, Jennifer Parmenter of Granada Hills and Erin Schatz of Agoura Hills.

Among the athletes in team sports are handball players Denny Fercho and Jim Hop of Camarillo, James Cox of Ventura, Tim Flaherty of Simi Valley and Mike Hurdle of Reseda. In softball are former Glendale High slugger Jenny Dalton, former Hoover High All-American pitcher Nancy Evans, former Burbank High and UCLA All-American Shelia Cornell, former Thousand Oaks High volleyball and softball standout Amy Chellevold, former Northridge All-American outfielders Barbara Jordan and Priscilla Rouse, plus Barb Booth of Glendale and infielder Karen Walker of El Camino Real High and UCLA.


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