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For Cornell, the Dream Continues

Olympians A Year Later. One in a series.

July 26, 1997|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DIAMOND BAR — Nearly a year has passed since Team USA won the first gold medal in softball at the Olympic Games, but Sheila Cornell Douty is still living the dream.

The message on her answering machine is proof enough: "Hi, you've reached [phone number], phone of former Olympic gold medalist Sheila Cornell Douty. . . . "

It took Cornell 34 years to realize a dream of playing softball in the Olympics. And it may take her another 34 to come down off the emotional high.

She will always cherish the moment when her name was announced over the public-address system before the first Olympic game against Puerto Rico.

"That was the first realization that this is it, this is really it," she said.

Nor will she forget hitting a two-run home run against China in a 3-2 victory, which put the U.S. in the medal round.

Nor the bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th inning of a scoreless game against China to put Team USA into the gold medal game.

Cornell hit .393 with a team-leading 11 hits and nine runs batted in in Olympic competition.

"[It was] absolutely the most incredible, most exciting event I've ever been involved with," said Cornell, who was the second oldest member of Team USA.

For Cornell, a power-hitting first baseman who grew up in Woodland Hills and graduated from Taft High in 1980, the dream continues a year later.

Cornell made the 1997 National team in June, and at 35, she is the oldest player on the squad.

Although she has a good shot at making the 2000 Olympic team, Cornell is approaching that prospect a little differently than the first time around.

"I'm still driven to it, but it's not the same," she said.

"It's not the same compulsive-like, come-hell-or-high-water thing where I'd do anything to play."

Certainly, life has changed a bit for Cornell since the Olympics.

She was married on New Year's Eve and resides in Diamond Bar with her husband, Joel Douty, and his three teenaged children.

Her built-in family and a contract with Easton, which produces her personalized signature bat, keep Cornell busy.

She has made approximately 25 appearances at softball clinics for young softball players and has found them to be very rewarding.

That's part of the reason she has put on hold her career as a physical therapist in order to attend and run more clinics.

When she isn't at a clinic or playing softball somewhere--which is about 15 days a month--Cornell is at home with her husband, renovating their house, a project which was half finished before the Olympics but not yet complete.

But that batting cage in the backyard (Joel's idea) is almost ready for action.

It's no wonder Cornell continues to plan her home and life around future competition.

She has been a top-notch athlete, leading first-rate teams since her youth.

She was a three-sport, eight-time varsity letter winner at Taft and twice led the Toreador softball team to the City Section championship game.

Her softball savvy landed her a scholarship at UCLA, where she helped lead the Bruins to national titles in 1982 and '84.

She is a 10-time Amateur Softball Assn. All-American and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

In a few weeks she will play for the California Commotion with four other former Olympians in the Women's Open Division national tournament in Phoenix.

And after that . . . the dream continues, of course.

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