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WORTH CHECKING OUT

WOMEN'S MARATHON: Rise and shine, America. The 7 a.m. start will have road-racing enthusiasts rolling out of bed early, and NBC will be there, too.

If you have been to Tampa's Gasparilla Distance Classic the past couple of years, you will see some familiar faces in medal contention, including Germany's Uta Pippig, who won the Boston Marathon this year.

Although the start is to avoid the stifling Georgia heat, the summer temperatures still are expected to be a factor. Pippig said she can't divulge her secrets for dealing with the humidity.

"We had some nice ideas, but I can't tell you until after the marathon," Pippig said.

Of the 90 runners entered, contenders in the unpredictable race include Pippig, Manuela Machado of Portugal, 1992 gold medalist Valentina Yegorova of Russia, 1992 silver medalist Yuko Arimori of Japan and her countrywoman Junko Asari.

The American contingent consists of Linda Somers, Jenny Spangler and Anne Marie Lauck, who finished fourth in the 1995 Gasparilla.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Fans of the Jose Cuervo Tournament, who have watched beach volleyball blossom into an Olympic sport, will revel in the glory of today's gold-medal game. It pits 1995 Jose Cuervo champs Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh against 1996 Jose Cuervo winners Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes.

GYMNASTICS: Individual event finals take place in the men's floor exercise, pommel horse and rings and the women's vault and uneven bars.

The top nine individuals from the team competition compete in each event. American Dominique Dawes competes in vault and bars, hoping to overcome her 17th-place finish in the individual all-around.

Also in the bars for the United States is Amy Chow. Joining Dawes in the vault is Shannon Miller, who also had a disappointing outing in the individual all-around. Miller, who was 10th, replaces Kerri Strug, who still is hobbled by an ankle injury.

Romania's Simona Amanar is the top competitor in vault and bars.

Blaine Wilson, who competes on the still rings, is the only U.S. gymnast to qualify for tonight's individual final, but Italy's Yuri Chechi has a can't-miss routine.

HEPTATHLON: With American Jackie Joyner-Kersee out, it will be interesting to see how much attention NBC devotes to the event. Syrian Ghada Shouaa is now the favorite.

_ ERNEST HOOPER

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