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September 14, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "Fred Roggin's Road to Sydney"

Where: Channel 4, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

This one-hour special that precedes NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony of the Olympics is a compilation of features on more than a dozen Southern Californians who will compete in Sydney. Fred Roggin, who will host the special from Sydney, and producer Charlie Rosene began working on it more than a year ago. The end result is an excellent show with profiles that are network quality.

Roggin and Rosene traveled to Portland, Ore., to interview Marion Jones, a graduate of Thousand Oaks High; caught up with sprinter Inger Miller and her father, Lennox, in Pasadena; had dinner with swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg's family in Studio City, and filmed softball's Dr. Dot Richardson of Los Angeles while she was performing surgery.

But maybe the best feature in the show, and scheduled to be the lead story, is on swimmer Chad Carvin of Laguna Hills. Carvin tears up while telling the story of his hard road to Sydney. A virus that attacked his heart left him nearly incapacitated in October 1995, although doctors could find nothing wrong. Depression led Carvin to attempt suicide in December of that year by taking a bottle of sleeping pills. Doctors finally discovered the disease that had afflicted Carvin and he was the country's swimmer of the year in 1997. Then a back injury in 1998 sidelined him again. Now he's thinking about winning a gold medal. "I hit the lowest, so why not the highest?" he says.

Some of the other athletes profiled have become fairly well known, such as volleyball's Misty May of Costa Mesa and water polo's Tony Azevedo of Long Beach. Others aren't as well known. Tuesday Middaugh of Riverside shows synchronized swimmers can be tough. Earlier this year she had emergency back surgery that nearly kept her from competing with doubles partner Anna Kozlova.

Then there is pistol marksman Bill Demarest of Orange County. The catchy intro to his feature points out Demarest is no relation to the William Demarest who played Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons." You'll like Bill Demarest's candor. He acknowledges watching his sport "is like watching grass grow." He points out one problem: "With golf, you can put a camera on the ball. You can't put a camera on the bullet."

The Krayzelburg feature is a good one, even though many people know the story of how this country's best backstroker came to the U.S. at 13 from Odessa in the Ukraine.

The piece on Miller focuses on her rivalry with Jones, but Jones pooh-poohs it. "When I think of rivalries I think of Bird and Magic and how Magic would win one, then Larry," she says with a devilish smile. "Inger needs a lot more consistency in her races."

Miller says she's the one who can beat Jones. And if that happens? "I'd love it," says Lennox Miller.

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