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June 16, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE AMATEURS: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal by David Halberstam (Fawcett: $10.; 221 pp., illustrated). Rowing is a singularly demanding sport, both physically and psychologically, yet it remains little appreciated in the United States, outside of a few Ivy League enclaves. Halberstam's bestseller traces the progress of some of America's top oarsmen toward the 1984 Olympics. Traditionally, American rowers have come from upper-class East Coast backgrounds, but the understated demeanor of these men clashed with the more brash West Coast athletes, producing rifts among potential teammates. Halberstam reveals how America's refusal to subsidize its Olympians forces talented athletes into a kind of prolonged adolescence, working grunt jobs that allow them to maintain their grueling training schedules.

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