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Olympics

Rings, things

By JOHN ROMANO
Published February 22, 2004

ALMOST A TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT: He was disqualified. Then he won. Then he was disqualified again.

Now, he's starting over.

Winter Haven's Andre Berto, one of USA Boxing's top hopes for a medal, got a taste of athletic bureaucracy last week at the Olympic trials.

The No.1 ranked welterweight in the United States, Berto was disqualified by a referee after pushing Juan McPherson to the canvas in a first-round bout. McPherson hit his head and was unable to continue.

The referee's ruling meant Berto, a sophomore at Polk Community College, would be ineligible for the team. After filing an appeal, Berto was reinstated. A day later, the appeal was reversed.

Finally, USA Boxing's board of directors held an emergency meeting and decided the welterweight division would be redrawn and recontested at a later date.

Berto won two national championships last year and took a bronze medal at the 2003 World Amateur Boxing Championships.

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: The title is not ceremonial. The job is not void of burden.

Patrick McEnroe and Zina Garrison were named the men's and women's Olympic tennis coaches last week, and their appointments are significant. No, they're not allowed to sit courtside as they would in Davis Cup. And yes, the athletes will continue working with their personal coaches.

But there are duties for the coaches.

"Picking up the balls for them is also a key part of the job," McEnroe cracked during a conference call last week.

Actually, Garrison and McEnroe help choose the teams based on rankings as of June 14 and Fed Cup and Davis Cup participation the past two years.

The timing of the Games could be problematic, with gold-medal matches scheduled one week before the start of the U.S. Open.

DREAM TOWN?: Is this USA Basketball's strategy for getting the Dream Team ready for the unglamorous conditions at the Olympic Village?

The men's team will train July 26-30 in Jacksonville and make its only stateside appearance at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on July 31 against Puerto Rico.

Officials say Jacksonville was chosen because they were looking for an East Coast site to make travel to Europe easier. The University of North Florida was recommended by the Magic, who holds training camp there.

Tickets for the game are available on Ticketmaster and range from $15-$100. Tickets for the lower level are going fast.

STALKING THE POMMEL HORSE: Looking for an early indication of USA fortunes in gymnastics?

The 2004 Visa American Cup airs on NBC at 4 p.m. Saturday from Madison Square Garden. The event puts four each of America's top male and female athletes against four top international stars. The men's and women's all-around champions will earn $10,000 each.

The American Cup has been a dependable indicator of Olympic fortunes in previous years, particularly on the women's side. Nadia Comaneci (1976), Mary Lou Retton ('84), Phoebe Mills ('88), Shannon Miller ('92) and Kerri Strug ('96) have gone on to win Olympic medals after placing at the American Cup in the months before the Summer Games.

- Compiled by John Romano from staff and wire reports.

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]


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