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McClure looks to fiancee for golden goal

Associated Press
Published June 28, 2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Men's Olympic team member Brett McClure doesn't have to look far for inspiration.

McClure, named to his first Olympic team Saturday, is engaged to Jaycie Phelps, part of the Magnificent Seven squad that won team gold in 1996 at Atlanta. Phelps' gold is in a china cabinet at their house, and McClure said he looks at it often.

"I get to hold it in my hands and know what I'm striving for," he said. "On those long days when you just don't want to go to the gym, it's something that's always there. You can look at it and say, "Okay, now I know why I'm doing this.' "

McClure was in the mix for the 2000 Olympic team, but he faltered badly and missed the team. Crushed by the failure, he took some time off to figure out what he wanted.

That time off gave him new motivation, and McClure has been one of America's top gymnasts the past three years. He helped the United States win silver at the past two world championships, and he was second to Paul Hamm at the nationals and Olympic trials.

"I've been having the best three years I've ever had in this sport, and I look forward to the best year I've ever had in this sport coming up," McClure said.

And maybe after Athens, he and Phelps will have another Olympic medal to add to their china cabinet.

"It's time to go out there and get my own now," McClure said with a smile.

I GOT RHYTHM: Unlike the artistic gymnasts, who train and travel in packs, America's lone Olympic rhythmic gymnast works out alone, or sometimes with one or two other athletes.

Mary Sanders, who has dual citizenship in America and Canada, spends most of her time working out in Toronto alongside Canada's top rhythmic gymnast, Alexandra Orlando.

How does Sanders stay motivated without others pushing her daily?

"We go to competitions about every month, and I see how everybody else in the world is doing, and that keeps me focused on what I need to do," she said.

In a sport dominated by Europeans, Sanders will be an underdog in Athens. She finished ninth at the world championships in September in Budapest. Adding to her underdog status is that judging in rhythmic gymnastics is notorious for allowing little room for surprises.

"It's kind of like ice skating," Sanders said. "But I've just got to keep giving my best and not worry about it. In another four years, the U.S. will be that much better and we'll earn more respect."

PRESSURE COOKER: As if there's not enough tension at Olympic trials, USA Gymnastics designed the meets to add another element of pressure. All four days, gymnasts have gone one at a time on each event, focusing all the attention in the arena on them. This is unlike most major competitions, in which several athletes perform at the same time.

"It's a great way to see how people respond," USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said. "It's like anteing up in a poker game. One person goes and says, "That's what I can do,' and then it's a challenge to the next person to do even better."

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