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ATHENS 2004

Sport-by-sport capsules

August 08, 2004

Handball

Where: Faliro Sports Pavillion at Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex (preliminaries) and Hellinko Indoor Arena (finals).

When: Aug. 14-24; women's final, Aug. 29; men's final, Aug. 29.

Top U.S. performers: Neither the U.S. men nor the U.S. women qualified.

Men's outlook: Croatia won the 2004 world championships, but Germany, led by Daniel Stephan and Stefan Kretzschmar, is the gold-medal favorite. France and Spain also figure to have a say in the medal standings, but don't overlook Russia, which has won three of the last four Olympics.

Women's outlook: France, Hungary and South Korea went 1-2-3 at the 2003 world championships with French goalie Valerie Nicolas earning most valuable player. In a game that demands consistency, a premier goalie can spell the difference.

Little-known fact: This is a seven-on-seven sport that requires passing and throwing, the ability to jump and withstand physical contact and is played on a field much like an indoor soccer pitch.

You'll remember: Germany's Kretzschmar is a cross between Dennis Rodman and David Beckham. He has seven body piercings, double-digit tattoos and his relationship with German swimmer Franziska van Almsick has them tabbed as "the Golden Couple" in the German media.

-- Gary Blockus, Allentown Morning Call

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Judo

Where: Ano Liossia Olympic Hall.

When: Aug. 14-20; finals -- every day.

Top U.S. performers: Alex Ottiano (66kg); Jimmy Pedro (73 kg); Brian Olson (90 kg); Ronda Rousey (63 kg); Celita Schutz (70 kg).

U.S. chances: The U.S. has never won a gold medal since men's judo became a recognized Olympic sport in 1964 and women's judo was added, first as a demonstration sport, in 1988. Americans have won 10 medals -- four silver and six bronze. The last medal, a bronze, came in 1996 from four-time Olympian Pedro (71 kg). Pedro (now at 73 kg) will be a medal favorite, as well as two-time Olympian Ottiano (66 kg) and first-timer Rousey (63 kg).

MEN'S OUTLOOK

60 kg: Japan's Tadahiro Nomura has owned the men's lightest weight class, winning Olympic gold medals in both the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games. Nothing should stop him from winning again in Athens.

66 kg: Larbi Benboudaoud of France returns as the reigning silver medalist but Cuba's Yordanis Arencibia and Ottiano could challenge Benboudaoud for the gold.

73 kg: Italy's Giuseppe Maddaloni, the gold medalist in Sydney, is not competing this year, opening the door for challenges from Won-Hee Lee of Korea and Pedro.

81 kg: Estonia's Aleksei Budolin, bronze medalist four years ago, returns as the gold-medal favorite in the absence of Olympic champion Makoto Takimoto of Japan.

90 kg: Four years ago, Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands won his country's first judo gold medal since Willem Ruska completed a rare double at the '72 Games in Munich. The bronze medalist in '96 in Atlanta, Huizinga should repeat as the Olympic champion in Athens.

100 kg: Japan's Kosei Inoue dominated from his first match to his last to win the gold medal in Sydney. He is expected to successfully defend, with his stiffest challenge coming from returning silver medalist Nicolas Gill of Canada.

100+ kg: France's David Douillet, a three-time Olympic medalist and two-time champion, has retired, giving Russia's Tamerlan Tmenov, bronze medalist in Sydney, his best chance for a trip to the top of the podium.

WOMEN'S OUTLOOK

48 kg: Don't be fooled by the change of name. Japan's Ryoko (Tamura) Tani is married now, but she is the same athlete: a two-time Olympic silver medalist and 2000 Olympic champion.

52 kg: With no medalists returning, the field is wide open. Korea's Eun Hee Lee is probably the best of the bunch.

57 kg: Four years ago in Sydney, Isabel Fernandez of Spain beat her old adversary, Driulis Gonzalez of Cuba, to win Olympic gold. Now the two compete in different classes and Fernandez could win gold again.

63 kg: Competing now at a heavier weight, Gonzalez -- the 1996 Olympic champion and 2000 silver medalist at 57 kg -- should still have a safe trip to the final.

70 kg: Former world and 2000 Olympic champion Sibelis Veranes of Cuba doesn't return, leaving the field open for favorites Anaisis Hernandez of Cuba and Masae Ueno from Japan.

78 kg: Celine Lebrun of France, silver medalist four years ago, is a clear favorite to medal again.

78+ kg: Cuba's Daima Beltran, 2000 silver medalist, will have to be at her best to beat Maki Tsukada of Japan and China's Fuming Sun.

Little-known fact: Former U.S. Olympian Ben Nighthorse Campbell ('64) is a three-term U.S. senator from Colorado, and two-time Olympian Hillary Wolf ('96, '00) acted in the films "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2." .

You'll remember: Tani, if she medals again, will have stood on the podium every year women have been competing for Olympic medals.

-- Tommy Hine,

Hartford Courant

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Modern Pentathlon

Where: Olympic Modern Pentathlon Centre, Goudi Olympic Complex.

When: Aug. 26-27.

Top U.S. performers: Chad Senior, Mary Beth Larsen-Iagorashvili.

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