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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SPOTLIGHT / THE
SHORT AND SWEET SIDE OF THE GAMES

It's for All the Marbles

September 26, 2000

Members of the U.S. softball team were delighted to see many members of the U.S. women's soccer team at Blacktown Softball Center on Monday to support them in their fight to reach today's gold-medal game.

In fact, it was a reunion of sorts: the women's soccer, softball, synchronized swimming and ice hockey teams had gathered at a summit in San Diego in May to discuss the dynamics of team play and of representing their country at the international level. The softball and soccer players bonded, because both had won gold medals at Atlanta in their sports' Olympic debuts.

"They've been a great inspiration for us," U.S. pitcher Lisa Fernandez said of the soccer players. "There has been constant communication between the two teams."

Michele Smith said each woman at that May summit had been given a marble, and added she had pulled hers out after the softball team lost its third consecutive game last week and was on the brink of Olympic elimination.

"We got our marbles back," Smith said. "I guess you can say they were lost for a while."

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, THEY COULD HAVE BEEN RHYTHMIC GYMNASTS

Jonathan Edwards' gold medal in the men's triple jump Monday and the bronze medals won by Kelly Holmes in the women's 800 meters and Katharine Merry in the women's 400 meters will not sit well with English journalist Jeremy Clarkson of London's Sunday Times.

All three athletes are British, which means Britain's television stations will play up the performances--and ruin Clarkson's viewing pleasure.

"The Olympics is a televisual neutron bomb," he wrote last week. "Every four years, the schedules are decimated by a need to bring us news of some Chinese stick insect who can dance while hanging from the ceiling.

"For week after week, the commentators will search the arenas for a glimmer of hope in the British camp, and when they find it we'll be subjected to whatever it is for days.

"Last time out, someone caught the whiff of victory in the coxless twos, and that was it. Hours of men with improbable shoulders rowing boats."

HE NEVER WON A RING EITHER

You probably do not remember Herlander Coimbra, but you remember whose elbow it was.

Coimbra is the slender Angolan player Charles Barkley elbowed in the chest during the Dream Team's debut in Barcelona in 1992, a 116-48 U.S. victory.

Barkley is retired, but Coimbra is back for his third Olympics at 32.

"Some people still ask about it," said Coimbra, who posed for a picture with Barkley when they saw each other again at the Atlanta Games.

"I have it in a frame," Coimbra said.

"I think he's a good player. Not too tall like other players, but he has soul and heart."

Once a Barkley fan despite the elbow--a blow Michael Jordan criticized and David Robinson called "a cheap shot"--Coimbra has a new allegiance to Scottie Pippen.

But the NBA is no longer his favorite league.

"I love especially the WNBA," he said. "My wife is a basketball player too. Edy Coimbra. She plays for the team in Luanda, the capital. Same as me."

His favorite WNBA team? The Sparks.

"I love a player, a guard from Los Angeles. The coach is Michael Cooper. I can't think of her name. I like the way she plays--a lot of assists."

Sounds like Ukari Figgs.

CALL THEM THE YOUNG AMERICANS

The U.S. and Angola won't meet this Olympics because the teams were in opposite groups and Angola went 0-5 in preliminary play, failing to advance.

Coimbra took a peek at the team anyway.

"It's a more young team than the first Dream Team," he said. "The first Dream Team was more adult and bigger.

"This team has some players with attitude. Not arrogance. But it is not like the other Dream Teams that came to show the world American basketball."

Teammate David Bartolomeu Dias agreed.

"The other team was Dream Team. This is just America's team," he said.

ANYTHING MODELED AFTER FATSO THE WOMBAT?

Olympic spectators who marvel at Sydney's landmarks can enjoy them in a different way at the equestrian venue.

Many of the obstacles built for the show jumping course resemble the city's familiar landscape. The water jump is flanked by a replica of the opera house, while another jump with water underneath is topped with the Harbor Bridge.

One wall jump has a cutout of the Australian continent in the middle.

HE COMPETED IN UP-AND-DOWNHILL

Russia's Sergei Kliugin may have won the high jump, but an 81-year-old New Zealander at the Sydney Olympics has gone a lot higher.

The sporting days of Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Mt. Everest, are long over. He's in Sydney to take part in the Olympic Arts Festival, where he will narrate at a concert today.

As the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays Vaughan Williams' Symphonia Antarctica, Hillary will narrate a film documentary of expeditions to the South Pole shown on a giant screen.

Hillary, who climbed the world's highest mountain in 1953, has also explored Antarctica.

THIS PROGRAM RATED TVMA

Shortly before the 2000 Olympics began, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph published a TV guide to the Games.

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