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Moment Is Golden for Slay

Olympics: Freestyle wrestler to get belated televised medal ceremony.

November 14, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Six weeks after U.S. freestyle wrestler Brandon Slay lost the 167.5-pound gold medal to Germany's Alexander Leipold at the Sydney Olympics--and a month after the International Olympic Committee recommended that Leipold be stripped of the gold for testing positive for two anabolic steroids--Slay will be recognized as the Olympic champion Wednesday at New York's Rockefeller Plaza.

NBC will televise the ceremony during the "Today" show. Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles, an IOC vice president, will present a gold medal to Slay, silver to third-place finisher Moon Eui-jae of Korea and a bronze to Adem Bereket of Turkey. U.S. freestyle wrestling great Bruce Baumgartner, who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in four Olympics, will present flowers to the trio, following Olympic protocol.

All three will probably receive new medals. Leipold didn't return his medal to the IOC until last week, and a source said it was no longer in pristine condition. A new silver medal will be awarded because the original was damaged by careless handling, a spokeswoman for DeFrantz said.

Several possibilities had been discussed for the ceremony. Slay favored holding it in his hometown of Amarillo, Texas. Another plan, to give him the medal on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," was vetoed by the IOC. Slay and officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the IOC and USA Wrestling decided "Today" would provide the widest possible audience and a suitably dignified setting.

"It's been a learning process. It's so novel. It's never been done before," said Steve Brunner, USA Wrestling's director of marketing.

"We've been going back and forth on a lot of ideas. We sat down and we all talked, giving our ideas. In the end, it was Brandon's decision on what he wanted.

" . . . he said, 'Given the fact this will be on national TV and I didn't get to have a ceremony in Sydney and that was taken away from me, this is the best way to do it, so friends and family that can't come can still see it."'

A podium identical to those used in Sydney will be constructed on West 49th Street, where the "Today" show often stages concerts. Flags of the winners' homelands will be raised and the U.S. national anthem will be played.

And unlike its coverage of the Sydney Games, NBC will show the medal ceremony live in the East and Midwest and only briefly tape-delayed in the rest of the country.

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