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A demonstration sport in 1988 and "92, Taekwondo makes its debut as a medal sport in Australia.

While Judo could be the martial arts version of wrestling, Taekwondo has more in common with boxing. The objective is to land as many clean blow as possible to four specific areas on an opponent - head, abdomen and the sides of the body.

Taekwondo can be traced back 2,000 years in Korea. With eight gold medals to be won - four each for men and women - Korea is hoping to claim at least half the hardware.

The sport already made headlines this year when Esther Kim withdrew from the championship round of the trials so she would not have to fight her best friend, Kay Poe, who had suffered an injured knee in the semifinals.

Kim's selfless act won her praise throughout the world and she was invited to attend the Games as the guest of International Olympic Committee czar Juan Antonio Samarach.



Reverses and takedowns have given way to appeals and arguments. In the days before the Olympics, the only wrestler making news isn't even on the team.

Matt Lindland's two-month appeal process to win a spot on the team - he says he was not beaten fair and square during the trials - has overshadowed what could be a very interesting U.S. team.

The eight members on the Greco-Roman squad are all new to the Olympics, as former medal-winners Matt Ghaffari, Brandon Paulson and Dennis Hall were beaten at the trials.

In freestyle, Terry Brands will get the chance to follow the path walked by his twin brother Tom in 1996. Terry Brands failed to make the last Olympic team, losing in the trials to eventual Olympic champion Kendall Cross at 128 pounds. Tom Brands, meanwhile, won gold at 139 pounds.

Four years later, Terry Brands has taken steps to correct his mistakes of 1996. He beat national champion Kerry Boumans at the trials and is now one of the favorites for gold.


Aleksandr Karelin may be the most successful athlete in the world in any sport. The Russian heavyweight has won nine consecutive world championships and three straight Olympic titles. He has not lost a match since 1987.

Matt Ghaffari became obsessed with the idea of beating Karelin. The Iranian-born U.S. citizen broke one of Karelin's ribs in the 1993 world championships, but still lost to a referee's decision after three overtimes. Ghaffari almost beat him again in the "96 Olympics, losing 1-0.

Ghaffari, 38, taped a picture of Karelin to his wall to stare at during training, but age caught up to Ghaffari before he caught up to Karelin.

Rulon Gardner beat Ghaffari 1-0 in overtime in the trials and is now the man responsible for trying to bring Karelin down. Gardner has met Karelin only once, losing 5-0 in 1997.

"I've never been dominated like that," Gardner said of the match.



For the first time in Olympic competition, women will be throwing their weights around.

Women weightlifters have been added to the program in 2000, essentially by taking the place of excess men. There will be the same number of weightlifters in Sydney as there was in Atlanta _ 250 _ but about 70 will be women.'

The addition of women comes just in time for the United States. It will help divert attention from a men's team that has not won a medal in any weight class or event since 1984.

America's best hope in 2000 could rest in the muscles of a 17-year-old, 295-pound high school student from Savannah, Ga.

Cheryl Haworth began weightlifting five years ago after her father took her to a gym to help her get stronger for softball. Despite her relative inexperience and youth, Haworth is already the strongest woman in the United States.

She has a good shot at a medal in 2000, although the final result will not be terribly important. Haworth will have plenty of chances in the future for Olympic glory and her greatest achievement this year could be lifting the veil of apathy that has engulfed weightlifting in the United States.


His knees are aching and he is 12 years past his first retirement, but Naim Suleymanoglu will be back again trying to win an unprecendented fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

The Pocket Hercules, so named for his 4-11, 137-pound physique, already has gotten a huge break before the start of competition. Greece's Valeris Leonidis, who nearly beat Suleymanoglu in 1996, has moved up a weight class.

Even so, it does not guarantee a repeat performance. Suleymanoglu retired for a second time after '96 and just returned to competition last year. At 33, he is past his prime and recently placed third in the European Championships. Turkish Weightlifting Federation chief Mevhibe Pekmezci said it would be a mistake to doubt Hercules.

"Naim is still the old Naim," Pekmezci said. "He'll make it."



The first U.S. gold in Judo may finally be in sight.

Last year, Jimmy Pedro became only the third American to ever win a world championship and is one of the favorites at 164 pounds in Australia. Pedro won bronze in 1996, but his Olympic quest began long before then.

Pedro, whose father taught Judo and is still his coach, won a silver medal at the Goodwill Games 10 years ago when he was 19. He has made three Olympic team since then and has won five national titles.

Pedro will not have an easy time in Australia. Kenzo Nakamura of Japan is back to defend his Olympic title at 164 pounds. Nakamura was beaten in the semifinals of the world championships last year, so Pedro did not have to face him. Russian Vitali Makarov is also considered a gold medal candidate.