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Lenzi, Donie return to top

Mark Lenzi and Scott Donie, the comeback kids of diving, will climb the 3-meter springboard ladder today looking for a full return to Olympic glory.

Lenzi and Donie are the best United States hopes for a gold medal, and both traveled a similar road to get from Barcelona to Atlanta: rocky.

Lenzi, the 1992 gold medalist on springboard, and Donie, the silver medalist on platform, suffered bouts of depression after their successes four years ago. Both quit diving, and both searched for a life after the Olympics. Eventually, both came back to the sport that defined them. Donie came back as a 3-meter diver, tired of the pain that went with falling three stories into the hard surface of the water.

"The hardest transition I had to make was to let go and feel like I was a good person," Donie said. "Springboard is more fun now. The difference is fear and the impact on the water. I also don't have to deal with being sore each day."

Lenzi put on 35 pounds as he sat on the couch, watched television and waited for inspiration to find him. He didn't get fully back into diving until a year ago and regained his previous level only after returning to coach Hobie Billingsley, the Indiana legend who came out of retirement to work with Lenzi.

"You accomplish a lifetime goal, then you don't know what to do afterward," Lenzi said. "I'll be all right this time because I have a plan."

For the next two days _ the preliminary round today and the semifinal and final rounds Monday _ Lenzi and Donie plan to worry only about diving and Russia's Dmitry Sautin, a 1992 bronze medalist who has dominated the men's competitions in the past two years. Sautin is favored to win the 3-meter and the 10-meter competition, now that Chinese platform champion Sun Shuwei has withdrawn from the competition because of a detached retina.

Also in the competition are Michael Murphy of Australia, who finished fourth in Barcelona; Fernando Platas of Mexico, the bronze medalist at the Rome Grand Prix in June; and Valeri Statsenki of Russia.

Donie and Lenzi were battled-tested at the U.S. trials in June. Donie had three consistent rounds to finish first in a very strong field. Lenzi was behind Dean Panaro of Fort Lauderdale going into the final dive of the competition. He nailed his specialty, a back 3{-somersault in the tuck position, earning perfect 10s from several judges to pass Panaro and earn his return trip to the Olympics.

"Mark is just an incredible diver," Donie said. "To come out on the last dive of the competition and hit the hardest dive in the book, there's not many guys who can pull that off."

Lenzi can be an inconsistent diver, but if he is on, his dive list has enough degree of difficulty for him to repeat as the gold medalist. He isn't graceful, but is perhaps the fastest spinner in the world.

Donie is as polished as Lenzi is not. He wins by drawing elegant lines in the air and hoping his style points overcome a dive list that isn't as strong as several other competitors.

Clark contends

for another medal

American Mary Ellen Clark, the women's platform bronze medalist in 1992, moved into position to win another medal.

Clark was third going into Saturday night's final with 174.87 points, having rallied from 12th after Friday's preliminaries.

She trailed China's defending champion Fu Mingxia (179.94) and Guo Jingjing (177.30).

"The difference between today and Friday is just my approach to things," Clark said. "The choice is mine. I can be aggressive or tentative. I chose to go after it."

Clark, 33, is trying to become the oldest Olympic diving medalist.

American Becky Ruehl, 18, didn't fare as well in the semifinals. Ruehl dropped from second to seventh after the semis with 163.38 points.

The top 12 divers advanced to the final, where results are determined by combining scores from the semifinal and final rounds.

Clark, from Fort Lauderdale, made up ground on her fourth dive. She earned four marks of 8.0 and three 7.5s from the judges for the back dive to go from 10th place to fifth.

Fu, 17, never relinquished the lead she held after the preliminaries.

Ruehl of Lakeside Park, Ky., missed her first dive of the semifinals, a reverse that she over-rotated on. That started her slide.

But Ruehl never stopped smiling. She grinned each time the Georgia Tech crowd roared at her introduction.