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Injured Okino to seek spot on Olympic training squad


Her back may be broken, but Betty Okino's Olympic dream isn't yet shattered.

The woman considered the second-best gymnast in the United States is unlikely to compete at the Olympic trials, Saturday through June 13 at the Baltimore Arena. Yet with a resume that includes three world championship medals, Okino may receive a reprieve -- and a ticket to the team's final training session before the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Confused? Don't be. In a subjectively judged sport, in which the goal is to put together the best team possible, Okino still could receive a spot on the six-woman team.

"An athlete who has been ranked or shown extreme levels of performance or capabilities has the right to petition their way onto the Olympic training squad," said Mike Jacki, executive director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation.

Okino, who is trained by Bela Karolyi, has a vertebra stress fracture. She missed the Phar-Mor U.S. Championships earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio.

"The injury got progressively worse with training," Okino said. "I feel a lot better, now, though."

Karolyi said that Okino deserves to be included on the eight-member squad that will train in France before the roster is reduced for Barcelona.

Okino won the bronze in the balance beam and helped the United States to a team silver at the 1991 world championships. She was a silver medalist in uneven bars at the 1992 world individual apparatus championships in Paris.

"Betty is proven worldwide," Karolyi said. "I hope they will consider her international prestige."

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