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Fear costs diver chance at berth

By wire services
Published June 13, 2004

ST. PETERS, Mo. - Mark Ruiz climbed to the next-to-last ledge of the 33-foot tower - and couldn't go any farther.

Overwhelmed after a painful crash, the 2000 Olympian skipped a dive at the U.S. trials Saturday, costing him a chance for a 10-meter platform berth.

"To not be on the Olympic team in this event is devastating," he said.

Caesar Garcia dominated to earn his first berth. But under new rules, the second berth went to the top diver from the winning synchro team, Ruiz and Kyle Prandi.

Ruiz, who competed in three events in Sydney but will do only synchronized platform in Athens, led by about 10 points after Round 4. But he was coming up on his dive that begins from an armstand. While trying the dive during practice, he landed on his chest, bursting blood vessels in his stomach.

Prandi nailed his fifth dive, the same one in which Ruiz was injured. Ruiz climbed the tower, but when he saw Prandi's scores (one 10, the rest 8.5-9.5), he stopped.

"If he did well, I wasn't going to throw myself off the tower and try to guess where I was," Ruiz said. "If he missed, I was going to go ahead and try."

Ruiz completed his last dive.

"For me, the whole thing was a little bit embarrassing," he said. "I felt like I had to finish."

Meanwhile, Kimiko Soldati bounced back from a poor dive to earn her first trip to the Olympics, winning the 3-meter springboard.

Soldati led after the opening dive of the final. But she over-rotated on an inward pike 21/2 somersault, creating a huge splash. Judges gave her 4s and 4.5s, dropping her to second.

Soldati's last three dives were on the mark, closing with a reverse pike 21/2 somersault that drew 8s and one 7.5 to finish with 884.70 points. Rachelle Kunkel earned her first berth by finishing second with 874.38. Michelle Davison, who was 12th in the 2000 Olympics, finished third with 870.60.

ATHENS IRKED: IOC president Jacques Rogge was criticized for suggesting Athens might not stage the best Olympics ever. Rogge has said he no longer will award "best ever" tags like his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

"He knows, as does the public, that the success of the Games will be decided by what happens between the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony," ATHOC president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said in a statement. Later, Rogge said he did not intended to be "critical" of Athens or the Olympic organizing effort.

MANDELA GETS TORCH: Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela was handed the Olympic torch at the island prison where he spent most of his 27 years in jail. Flag-waving crowds gathered along the 35-mile route to cheer the 125 torchbearers, including sports stars, music legends, children and a 100-year-old man, for the torch's first trip to South Africa.

[Last modified June 12, 2004, 23:37:23]


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