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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight

Please Don't Spike Us

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

July 23, 1996|ROBYN NORWOOD

Beach volleyball is having to defend itself as it makes its debut as an Olympic sport today, with some "purists" ready to throw it into the bin with synchronized swimming.

"I think sometimes it's difficult because we play on the sand, usually at the beach," said Karch Kiraly, who played on the U.S. gold-medal winning indoor volleyball teams in 1984 and '88. "Let's face it, no socks, no shoes, often no shirts. This is going to be a chance for us to show how much endurance it takes to play beach volleyball and how much skill it takes to cover the same area with two players as you cover with six indoors. And they play on an easier surface to jump and move."

The road to approval as a medal sport is usually a long one. Even baseball only reached that status in 1992, but beach volleyball's tremendous television appeal paved the way.

"We've only been playing 10 years, so I guess it is early to become an Olympic sport," Holly McPeak said.

The players are counting on fans to prove the game's value.

"I think it's a legitimate sport," Barbra Fontana Harris said. "But I think the public will give us an answer after the Olympics."

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