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Penguins' Lemieux Ready and Raring to Go

September 10, 1996|From Staff and Wire Reports

The sigh of relief was audible from the Pittsburgh Penguins' training complex all the way to Civic Arena. Mario Lemieux is back for at least one more season.

Lemieux said Monday in Canonsburg, Pa., that he is healthy and motivated enough to play, and is convinced the Penguins can challenge again for the Stanley Cup.

Lemieux, who will be 31 next month, returned from a one-year health sabbatical to win his fifth NHL scoring title and lead the Penguins to within one victory of the Stanley Cup finals last spring.

After Pittsburgh's Game 7 loss to Florida in the Eastern Conference finals, Lemieux put off any decision about his hockey future.

He did not inform the Penguins of his decision to keep playing until a Sunday night meeting with team owner Howard Baldwin.

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The Montreal Canadiens signed Jocelyn Thibault to a new contract worth nearly $4 million. It will keep the team's starting goaltender in Montreal through the 1998-99 season.

Soccer

The United States defeated Costa Rica, Guatemala and Cuba to qualify for soccer's third FIFA World Indoor Championship in Spain Nov. 26-Dec. 5. Dennis Brose led the U.S. team in the CONCACAF regional qualifying tournament with five goals and two assists.

The United States finished third in the first championship in The Netherlands in 1989 and second in Hong Kong in 1992. Brazil won both tournaments.

Boxing

In a North American Boxing Organization junior-lightweight championship fight that featured four knockdowns, Saul Durran of Los Angeles defeated Ramon Morales of Mexicali, Mexico, at the Forum.

Durran knocked down Morales in the second, fifth and seventh rounds, before the referee stopped the bout 2:44 into the seventh. Morales knocked Durran down in the fourth round.

In the co-main event, former WBC middleweight champion Julian Jackson of Las Vegas scored a 10-round decision over Leonardo Aguilar of Montebello in a non-title fight.

Pro Basketball

Indiana Pacer center Rik Smits underwent successful surgery in Houston for compression of nerves in both feet. Smits was expected to begin rehabilitation in 10 days and be able to resume playing in six weeks, the club said.

The Atlanta Hawks signed Priest Lauderdale, the team's first-round draft pick, to a three-year contract. The 7-foot-4, 339-pound Lauderdale was the 28th player taken in the first round of the NBA draft in June.

Free-agent forward J.R. Reid, 28, signed with PSG Racing Basket of the French first division. The one-year contract is valued at more than $800,000. Reid made $2.4 million last season with the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks.

Olympics

The Atlanta Olympics were marred by behind-the-scenes management problems because they were simply too big to handle, the security chief for the Summer Games said in Atlanta.

The security operation, for example, was stuck with filthy dormitories for officers and a severe shortage of two-way radios, Bill Rathburn said. Some volunteers were so disgruntled they might have quit if they had not been given souvenir watches, he added.

"They were too big," Rathburn said of the Games. "I don't think you'll see Games this big again for a long, long time."

Miscellany

Boris Becker will return to competitive tennis after an 11-week absence in a first-round match today at the Romanian Open in Bucharest. Becker, 28, injured his right wrist during his third-round match at Wimbledon in June.

A federal judge in Chicago ruled that Northwestern must give 6-foot-5 guard Nick Knapp a chance to play college basketball, even though his heart once stopped during a pickup game. U.S. District Judge James Zagel said Knapp's risk of injury or death related to the cardiac arrest he suffered in Peoria two years ago wasn't great enough to warrant barring him from playing.

The NCAA announced the 10 finalists for its 1996 Woman of the Year award, which recognizes intercollegiate female athletes for outstanding achievement in athletics, academics and community leadership.

The finalists are Mary Alice Brady, track and field, Boston College; Amy DeVasher, swimming, Alabama; Billie Winsett Fletcher, volleyball, Nebraska; Kristi Kloster, track-cross country, Kansas; Marya Morusiewicz, volleyball, Barry University; Nikki Nicholson, volleyball, Georgia; Jenni Rademacher, basketball, North Dakota State; Annette Salmeen, swimming, UCLA; Samantha Salvia, field hockey, Old Dominion; Katie Smith, basketball and track and field, Ohio State.

Memorial services for sports physician Robert Kerlan will be held Sept. 15 at 11 a.m. in the Hollywood Park Casino's banquet room. Memorial donations can be made to the USC Robert K. Kerlan Sports Medicine Research Chair at USC.

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