PEEKING DOWN UNDER
The United States may or may not win medals in Sydney, but it will not be for a lack of toughness.
Several members of the seven-person team overcame setbacks in the days before the Olympic trials to earn their way to Sydney.
Three months before the trials, Goodwill Games gold medalist Laura Wilkinson broke three bones in her right foot during training.
Initially despondent over the thought that her Olympic dream was done, Wilkinson eventually began plotting a return course. The cast was removed less than two months before the trials and she began training again even though her foot still hurt.
Because she did not have time to work on all of her dives before the trials, Wilkinson added a dive that she had previously discarded because of the low degree of difficulty. She nailed it and earned six perfect scores to win the platform event.
Wilkinson at least had time to work her way back into shape.
On the night before the springboard competition, Troy Dumais was overcome by pain in his left side. He was taken to a Seattle-area hospital and given medication for treatment of kidney stones. He went back to his hotel but had to return to the hospital again two hours before the final.
After passing two stones, Dumais was on the pool deck about an hour before warmups and placed second to qualify for the team.
Dumais had just missed qualifying in 1996, finishing third in the trials, and was determined not to lose out again.
"If I'm anywhere near walking, I'm diving," Dumais told coach Matt Scoggin after the second trip to the hospital
The rest of the U.S. team includes Orlando's Mark Ruiz (platform and springboard), David Pilcher (platform), Michelle Davison (springboard), Jenny Keim (springboard) and Sara Reiling (platform).
DID YOU KNOW
Synchronized diving will be a medal sport for the first time in 2000.
The event, which has been around less than 10 years, involves a two-person team performing similar or identical dives at the same time. Judges base scores on the execution of the dive, along with the synchronization of the pair. It will be performed by both men and women in the 3-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform.
The United States has qualified three synchro teams for Sydney _ men's platform, men's springboard and women's platform. Coaches have until two days before the start of competition to select teams for the synchro events from among the seven U.S. divers in Australia.
China's Fu Mingxia is attempting to become the first diver in Olympic history to win five gold medals. She won the platform in 1992 and then swept platform and springboard in 1996.
The men's platform competition should be a battle between China's Tian Liang and Russia's Dmitry Sautin with Orlando's Mark Ruiz as a darkhorse. Sautin is also a favorite in the springboard.
The United States did not win a gold medal in '96 for the first time since 1912 (discounting the '80 boycott) and could be shut out again this summer.
PEEKING DOWN UNDER
Synchronized swimming in the Olympics has gone from solo and duet competition (1984-92) to just team competition (1996) and now back to team and duet (2000) events.
The United States won the team competition in '96 and, based on the Rome Open last month, could win it again. The United States finished first in Rome with Japan second and Canada third. That is how the '96 Olympics finished except with Japan and Canada swapping spots.
The United States also has a chance to win gold in the duet competition now that Tuesday Middaugh and Anna Kozlova are back together. The duo was sidelined at the end of 1999 while the Russian-born Kozlova was gaining her citizenship and then again in the spring of this year after Middaugh underwent back surgery. They have competed in two events this summer, winning silver in the American Cup and gold in Rome.
DID YOU KNOW
Bill May, who is one of the top individual performers in the world, will have his day before the FINA Congress on Sept. 14 in Sydney. May is petitioning the sport's governing body to allow males to compete in synchronized swimming in the Olympics.
PEEKING DOWN UNDER
After making strides in water polo with silver in 1984 and '88, the United States stepped backward, failing to win medals in the last two Games.
America's hopes appear to rest with Chris Humbert, an imposing goal-scorer at 6 feet 7. When Humbert missed a recent tournament in Italy with an injury, the United States failed to win a match. With him, the team is a medal contender.
Women's water polo makes its debut as a medal sport in Sydney and the United States is one of six teams to have qualified. The American women won gold in the Holiday Cup in July against a field that included all the Olympic teams.
The United States, never a major factor in canoe and kayak competition in the Olympics, has been enjoying one of its best seasons ever with top 10 world rankings for the first time in years.
The success has been overshadowed, however, by the plight of team member Angel Perez. A native of Cuba, Perez has been in the United States for eight years but only recently became a citizen.
Cuba has refused to grant permission for Perez to compete in the Olympics (he must have Cuba's permission because he has been a U.S. citizen for fewer than three years) and the saga is jeopardizing a four-man kayak entry for the United States because Perez was ineligible when the team qualified. The team is going through appeal processes.
The United States is the only country to qualify the maximum 14 boats and 48 athletes for the Games. The men's eight crew is the gold medal favorite after winning three straight world championships. The U.S. men's eight has not won a medal since a bronze in 1988 and has not won gold since 1964.
Mark Reynolds is back for his fourth Olympics, but with a new partner. After winning silver (1988) and gold (1992) and placing eighth (1996) with Reynolds, Hal Haenel has resigned as crew. He is replaced by Magnus Liljedahl of Miami in the Star competition.