A year and a half ago Gail Devers of the U.S. couldn't even walk, yet last Saturday she won the gold medal in the 100 meters.
The rowing career of Canada's Silken Laumann was supposedly over after she suffered severe leg injuries when her shell was rammed by another boat in May. Upon receiving the bronze medal in the single sculls, Laumann wept tears of joy.
Just to get to Barcelona and represent Bosnia-Herzegovina, women's 3,000-meter runner Mirsada Buric trained under sniper fire in Sarajevo.
And the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michael Jordan are feuding over whether he will wear warmups made by USOC sponsor Reebok or by Jordan sponsor Nike on the medal stand this Saturday?
As is his custom, USOC vice-president George Steinbrenner caused a stir in Barcelona. He offered to pay for the medical education of Ron Karnaugh, the U.S. swimmer whose father died of a heart attack at the opening ceremonies. He also participated in protesting the decision against U.S. light flyweight Eric Griffin.
Less talked about, however, was Steinbrenner's interference in baseball. At the opening ceremonies, a pitcher on the U.S. team tried to strike up a conversation with him, saying, "Hey, Cat Daddy." Says the pitcher, "That's what I call everybody." Steinbrenner, however, thought he had said, "Hey, Fat Man."
The pitcher, one of the squad's best, says Steinbrenner then demanded that U.S. baseball officials cut him. The pitcher cooled things off by apologizing. "I was only trying to be friendly," says the pitcher.
Sylvie Frèchette will carry more than the pressure of being a world champion into the Olympic synchronized swimming final on Thursday. On July 18, a week before the opening ceremonies, Frèchette returned to her suburban Montreal home after a training session and found the body of Sylvain Lake, her fiancè and business manager. He had died from carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent suicide. Lake, 26, a former 400-meter runner of modest ability, was to have flown that night to Barcelona, where he was to serve as a track and field analyst for TVA, a Canadian television network.
Frèchette, 24, left for the Games four days later. "I know this is what Sylvain wants," she said after arriving in Barcelona. "It was his dream to come to the Olympics, first as an athlete and then as a journalist. He knew how much the Olympics meant to me. I'm not angry with Sylvain. It never crossed my mind to be angry. But no one in the world can judge what he did. I have unanswered questions too."
The outpouring of condolences moved Frèchette. Before the Games her chief rival, Kristen Babb-Sprague of the U.S., sent Frèchette a message offering a sympathetic ear.
Julie Sauve, who has been Frèchette's coach for 18 years, says Frèchette has put aside her grief until after the Olympics. "She's stronger than I thought," says Sauve. "She's stronger than she thought."
"You mean you actually know Patrick Ewing?" asked Michael Hyatt, the best table tennis player in Jamaica, as well as in Anderson, S.C. "Please, can you deliver a letter to him?"
Hyatt made this request of two U.S. journalists as they watched him warm up for his first Olympic match. After receiving an affirmative response, Hyatt penned a note on the spot. "Hi there!" he wrote to the Dream Team and New York Knick center. "You probably don't know who I am, so let me introduce myself." (Hyatt was right: Ewing, a native of Jamaica who moved to the U.S. at age 11, had not heard of him.) "I know that you must be busy, but I'll go through the roof if you could come and see me play."
Hyatt ended with what he said is a traditional Jamaican closing: "Respect seen. One Love, Michael Hyatt."
Ewing got the letter, and, well, it would've been a great story if he had gone to Hyatt's match and cheered him to a dramatic victory. But Ewing didn't show (he had another engagement), and Hyatt lost 21-13, 21-4 to Jorg Rosskopf of Germany, the fifth seed.
Hyatt, who will be a senior at Anderson College this fall and is the reigning collegiate singles champ, still hopes that Ewing will someday see him play. "Maybe he can watch me back in the States," said Hyatt. "But I guess the Knicks do not make it often to Anderson."
A Fetching Car
At previous Games, officials had to lug javelins, discuses and hammers. In Barcelona they have at their disposal a radio-controlled miniature replica of a 1934 Bugatti. The car, which was built by UCS, an athletic equipment manufacturer in Orangeburg, N.Y., goes 10 mph and has a range of half a mile. When the Bugatti works right, officials merely have to load and unload it. Last week, however, it didn't always work right. "We stopped it, and all of a sudden it took off," said UCS vice-president Larry Schwartz. "Turned out to be a loose connection." The Bugatti also had trouble going in reverse.
Given the glitches, it's wise that Barcelona officials didn't follow through on their first idea for a retriever: a radio-controlled helicopter.
The Albanian Olympic swimming team lives in Philadelphia. He's Frank Lescas, a senior freestyler and breaststroker at La Salle, and he got the idea of representing Albania while watching this year's Winter Olympics on TV. When CBS noted that 17 of the 23 members of the Italian hockey team were American, Lescas, whose four grandparents emigrated from Albania, turned to his mother and said, "Mom, why can't we do this?"
After writing to Albanian officials, the Lescases found out they could. Events were working in Frank's favor. The most isolated of the former Iron Curtain countries, Albania had competed in only one Olympics, the 1972 Summer Games, because the government feared contact with foreigners would corrupt its athletes. But in April, Albania elected its first non-communist government since 1945, which allowed the formation of an eight-person Olympic team: four weightlifters, two shooters, one heptathlete and Lescas.
Lescas made his first trip to Albania in July. He stayed with a cousin in Tirana, the capital, for a week and received all the Albanian swimming federation had to offer: 4½ leks (nine cents) per day for food, and access to the federation's finest facilities. "There were two 50-meter pools, a 25-meter pool, a diving well and a baby pool—but no water," says Lescas. "Only the 15-meter-wide diving pool was filled, but there was no chlorine, no skimmer. I couldn't see the bottom. I didn't want to see the bottom."
After two days of countless turns in the diving well, Lescas began practicing in the Adriatic Sea, though that didn't help much. He finished last in all three of his heats: the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 breaststroke.
The Olympic experience did give Lescas an appreciation of his native country. "The Albanian landscape is so gorgeous," he says. "But you look between the mountains and the trees, and there are cement bunkers. My favorite song now is God Bless America."
This is how a release from PRNewswire, a trade publication, hailed U.S. swimmer Mike Barrowman's victor)': "A gold medal was captured for the U.S. in the 200-meter breaststroke event in Barcelona today by a 23-year-old spokesman for bromine-based pool and spa products made by BioLab, Inc., of Decatur, Ga."
With teammate Stephanie Maxwell-Pierson of Somerville, N.J., Anna B. Seaton of Watertown, Mass., won the bronze medal in the pairs rowing without coxswain, but she deserves a gold for middle names. The B is for Banana.
[Thumb Up]To Lillehammer, host of the 1994 Winter Olympics, for its relief efforts in war-torn Sarajevo, site of the '84, Winter Games. The Lillehammer Olympic Fund is helping to provide havens for children.
[Thumb Down]To the French Olympic committee, for failing to notify officials in Barcelona that sprinter Bruno Marie-Rose had qualified for the 100 meters. Marie-Rose, who arrived at the Olympic Village only to discover he had not been entered in the 100, said, "It is a dream broken by human foolishness."
They Said It
Charles Barkley, on fellow Dream Teamer John Stockton, who missed four games because of a leg injury: "We call him Chevy Chase. He's over here on a European vacation."
Jason Morris, U.S. half-middleweight judo player, after he lost the gold medal bout to Hidehilo Yoshida of Japan when he was thrown for an ippon: "I was flying Air Japan."