Yngling sailors take time for dose of March sanity

Sun Staff

Forgive the local sailors who just made the U.S. Olympic team for notstanding in the spotlight.

After three years of hard work and with a full schedule of Europeancompetition ahead of them, Liz Filter of Stevensville and Nancy Haberland ofAnnapolis, along with Rhode Island skipper Carol Cronin, hung up a "Do NotDisturb" sign this month.

"We're introducing ourselves to our families once again," said Filter, whois spending time with her husband and two young children. "We're trying toprotect our March."

The team, selected to compete in the Yngling class, leaves March 31 forabout five weeks of competition on the European regatta circuit to test theirskills against sailors already selected for the Athens games and those stilltrying to make the cut.

"Europe has a very good Olympic circuit in spring and summer. We'll becompeting against some of the best," said Cronin.

The team will scoot home for some rest and then head back to Europe formore competition.

The home-and-away schedule puts the women back in Annapolis at thebeginning of June for the Women's Match Racing World Championship (formerlythe Santa Maria Cup), hosted by the Eastport Yacht Club.

There, the team of three will split, with Cronin and Filter sailing withtwo other women and Haberland teaming with Liz Baylis and two others on J/22s.

"We qualified for this in November. Liz [Filter] and I decided it was veryimportant to have goals beyond the trials," Cronin said. "It's what wejokingly call cross training."

In addition to family time, the women are still savoring their Olympictrials victory last month in St. Petersburg, Fla., aboard Spidey, theirCanadian-built boat.

The win was "15 different emotions in one minute" followed by a surprise,said Filter.

Her husband, Henry, who had said he wouldn't attend the Florida races toavoid being a distraction, broke his promise.

As the team crossed the finish line after the first race on the final daywith the Olympic berth in hand, Filter saw her husband on one of the nearbypowerboats.

"My heart almost burst right there," she said. "It's so hard to surprise me- birthdays, anniversaries - but he really did."

This will be the first Olympics to include Ynglings, nimble, 21-footkeelboats with a maximum weight of 450 pounds.

"It's added visibility and added expectations for us," Cronin said. "TheU.S. traditionally medals in women's sailing events, in keelboats and in newevents. We're a three-for."

Only one Olympic class remains to be decided. Sailors in the Star classwill be trying for the final spot during racing March 18-28 at Florida's CoralReef Yacht Club and U.S. Sailing Center.

Injured Wilson optimistic

Blaine Wilson has been down before.

The five-time U.S. gymnastics champion and two-time Olympian has had fourshoulder surgeries and had to sit out the 2001 season after tearing his rightrotator cuff.

When Wilson, 29, tore his left biceps muscle while competing on the stillrings at the Visa American Cup on Feb. 28, many fans of the sport thought hemight have suffered a career-ending injury.

The usual recovery time from a muscle torn that badly is six months, aboutthe amount of time left before the start of the Summer Games. Complicatingmatters is that the Olympic trials are June 24-27.

But in a conference call with reporters Thursday -two days after surgery inBirmingham, Ala. by noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews - Wilson andhis coach, Miles Avery, sounded upbeat.

"Everything went well," Wilson said. "Basically, it's up to me. ... In thepast, that hasn't been a problem."

The injury occurred just two moves into his routine. Wilson said he felt asmall twinge and then he felt the muscle tear "like when you rip chicken offthe bone. I grabbed my hand so my arm wouldn't be flinging around, and I satdown and thought, `What have I done?' Then immediately, `How do I fix this?' "

He was helped from the mat and had a magnetic resonance imaging test thenext day, which confirmed the extent of the damage.

Wilson said he will begin stretching and flexibility exercises tomorrow andexpects to be training again in six weeks.

"Once it's fixed, it's fixed. ... I'm not afraid of hurting it any worse,"he said.

USA Gymnastics officials have indicated that Wilson could sit out thetrials and petition for an invitation to the Olympic team selection camp inmid-July, when the final four members of the squad will be chosen. The top twofinishers at trials automatically qualify.

Time for Titan Games

Athletes in seven of the lesser-watched Olympic sports will get centerstage during the Titan Games in Atlanta on June 18-20.

The event is expected to pit the top U.S. boxers, fencers, shot-putters,wrestlers, weightlifters, judo and taekwondo athletes against former andpresent Olympians and World Cup medallists from other countries.

The inaugural Titan Games were held last year in San Jose, Calif. U.S.Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr said the competition gives U.S.athletes the opportunity to test their skills against some of the world's bestwithout having to travel overseas.

The opening of the Titan Games will coincide with the arrival of theOlympic torch in Atlanta on June 18.

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