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Olympics briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


Citing health, Akers quits soccer team

CHICAGO -- Michelle Akers surrendered her spot on the U.S. soccer team Thursday when she announced her retirement from international competition.

"After winning the gold medal in 1996, I promised myself to never again play in the condition I was in during those Olympic Games," said Akers, 34. "Since then, retirement has been a big issue with me, and the decision to continue on ... has always been a prayerful and careful one."

Akers' medical problems include chronic fatigue syndrome for the past eight years and shoulder surgery in April. After reinjuring the shoulder Aug. 15 in a match against Russia, Akers said, she realized her body had given all it could.

"I finally said to myself, "This is insane,' " she said. "I was battling at my absolute gut level to just get through the day, and finally, the last straw was that I reinjured the shoulder. I just said, enough is enough. I am no good to myself like this, and I am certainly no good to my team."

She still plans to play for Orlando's WUSA franchise, which starts play in April.

Akers' Olympic replacement was expected to be announced today.

One of the most renowned women's players, Akers finishes her 15-year international career with 105 goals, tied for third all-time with Carolina Morace of Italy. Akers is the all-time Women's World Cup leading scorer (12 goals), and she is second to Mia Hamm in career scoring for the U.S. team with 105 goals, 37 assists and 247 points.

In the first Women's World Cup, in 1991, she scored 10 goals and became the first American to win a Golden Boot, soccer's MVP award. She was the first female player with a shoe contract.

MORE SOCCER: Romario is conducting a public campaign to be named to Brazil's team because he wants to add a gold medal to his 1994 World Cup winners medal. But coach Wanderley Luxemburgo said he is standing by his decision to take only players under the age of 23. The Olympic tournament is limited to players under 23, but each team can field up to three overage players. Romario is 35. Luxemburgo said he decided against taking older players so he could reward the team that qualified the country for next month's Games.

ATHENS GAMES: International Olympic Committee inspectors examined a progress report to determine whether organizers made a 100-day deadline to get back on track for 2004, and they were "very pleased," IOC executive board member Jacques Rogge said.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch criticized organizers after a May inspection, saying Greece had placed the Games at risk because of major construction delays.

BASEBALL: Past Olympic heroes Omar Linares, Orestes Kindelan and Antonio Pacheco head a list of 30 players named to Cuba's team for Sydney. Six players must be designated as alternates.

Linares, Kindelan and Pacheco, three-fourths of the infield, will join outfielder Luis Ulacia and left-handed pitcher Omar Ajete in bidding for their third straight gold medal.

Linares has a Games career batting average of .488 and is tied with Kindelan for the most home runs with 12. Kindelan hit a record nine home runs in nine games in 1996 at Atlanta. Pacheco is the Olympic RBI leader with 26.

CYCLING: Marty Nothstein covered 200 meters in an American-record 10.092 seconds during qualifying for his specialty, the match sprint, at the U.S. national championships in Colorado Springs. Nothstein won the match sprint silver medal in 1996.

GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLING: An arbitrator ruled that Keith Sieracki's victory in the U.S. trials should stand, and he will compete at 1671/2 pounds in Sydney.

Sieracki defeated Matt Lindland in the June trials, winning the deciding third bout 2-1 in overtime on a referee's decision. Lindland filed a protest with USA Wrestling, saying he had been tripped. That protest was denied, as was a subsequent one.

Lindland then filed for arbitration and was granted a rematch. He defeated Sieracki 8-0 in a match Aug. 14.

Sieracki then filed for arbitration. A. Bruce Campbell of the American Arbitration Association directed USA Wrestling on Thursday to withdraw Lindland's nomination and designate Sieracki as the 1671/2-pound representative.

TRACK AND FIELD: African hammer-throw record-holder Chris Harmse has withdrawn from the South African team for religious reasons. Harmse withdrew because the final of his event takes place on a Sunday, said Sam Ramsamy, president of the South African National Olympic Committee.

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