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WORTH CHECKING OUT

TRACK AND FIELD: One of the Games' most popular sports debuts today, but the glamor is missing, with medals awarded only in the men's 20km race walk and men's shot put. The day's most-watched events most likely will be qualifying in the men's high jump and men's triple jump. There also will be first-round heats in the men's and women's 100-meter dash.

SWIMMING: The folks in Sarasota hope native son Tripp Schwenk can find a measure of redemption in the 200-meter backstroke. Schwenk was fifth Tuesday in the 100-meter backstroke _ the second time he has placed fifth in an Olympic final.

"When I hear athletes say they're not disappointed to be fourth or fifth, they're either stupid or they're lying," he said.

The challenge to win a medal will be difficult for Schwenk. Italy's Emanuelle Merisi and Russia's Vladimir Selkov pose serious challenges. And Spain's Martin Lopez-Zubero, who swam at the University of Florida, cannot be counted out.

In the women's 200 butterfly, Michelle Smith will go for her fourth gold medal. Her competition should include Americans Trina Jackson and Annette Salmeen.

DIVING: Just when gymnastics takes a couple of days' rest, diving steps in to provide its form of aerial acrobatics. Preliminary rounds in platform diving will feature American Mary Ellen Clark, who overcame vertigo to earn a spot on the team. Fu Mingxia of China, the 1992 gold medalist, is favored.

CANOEING: Whitewater canoeing from the Ocoee Whitewater Center does not begin until Saturday, but NBC has plans to televise training tonight.

WATER POLO: Look for the match between the United States and Spain to get primary coverage during NBC's late-night broadcast. The U.S. team was fourth in Barcelona and Spain took the silver medal.

This year, the United States has lost only once, to gold-medal favorite Italy.

VOLLEYBALL: It is not the medal round, but it might as well be for the U.S. women, who find themselves in a must-win situation after losing to China Wednesday night. The United States plays Japan tonight and if it loses, it may have to play medal favorites Cuba or Russia in the quarterfinals. Coach Terry Liskevych is hoping the team does not come out flat as it did against China.

_ ERNEST HOOPER

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