Coburn waits for the real thing, baby City racquetballer wants Olympic gold


SAN ANTONIO -- Lynne Coburn's serve is averaging nearly 130 mph. Her hair and uniform are drenched, the result of changing directions and banging off walls while moving at full speed.

And she has played for only 75 minutes.

Actually, Coburn has been playing racquetball for 12 years, but she would like to extend her career until the year 2000.

That's when Coburn hopes racquetball will become an Olympic sport.

"Oh, I keep telling myself I will be in my prime then," said Coburn, a 26-year-old physical education teacher at Ridgely Middle School in Baltimore County. "I'll be in my mid-30s then. I've got a goal I want to achieve."

Coburn defeated Molly O'Brien of Souderton, Pa., 15-14, 15-9, here last night in the U.S. Olympic Festival quarterfinals.

Coburn will meet Cheryl Gudinas, of Lisle, Ill., at noon today in a semifinal game of the medal round.

The Woodlawn native was superb yesterday, struggling in the later part of the first game, but dominating O'Brien in the second. At one point Coburn was ahead, 6-1, in the final game.

Coburn won a silver medal in doubles competition in the 1991 Olympic Festival in Los Angeles, and a bronze in the 1990 Minnesota Festival.

A gold would give her a sweep.

"It would be nice to get the gold here," said Coburn. "They set everything up like they do in the Olympics, the platform, the music, the whole bit."

But Coburn wants the Olympic gold.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized racquetball as a possible addition to future games in 1985. The American Amateur Racquetball Association also made a presentation to the IOC last April, but there has been no word on acceptance, except that the IOC won't sanction the sport for the 1996 games in Atlanta.

So Coburn must play and wait.

And wait and wait. . . .

"I'll keep playing as long as it's fun," said Coburn. "The way I look at it now, I consider myself a pioneer in the sport."

Coburn started playing racquetball as a second hobby to tennis. She met Russ Jones at a club in Woodlawn, who tutored her and talked her into going on the pro tour.

"It was just a fast, more exciting game than tennis," said Coburn. "Once I started playing, I never picked up a tennis racket."

Coburn is ranked sixth nationally, and No. 5 professionally. One of her biggest career highlights came last Easter when she beat the world's top-ranked player, Jackie Gibbs of San Diego, in Honduras.

But the win went unnoticed by most of the sports world.

"The sport is growing," said Coburn, pointing out that racquetball is played in 78 countries by 14 million players. "It's a Festival sport and will be a full-medal sport in the Pan American games."

"It's enjoying a renewed popularity at home and increased bTC demand worldwide," said Linda L. Mojer, an American Amateur Racquetball Association official. "We wooed the IOC recently, and we're shooting for 2000."

Until then, Coburn will run hundreds of miles, thousand of sprints, play many hours of squash and practically live in a weight room.

Her hair will be drenched as her body bounces off walls.

"Well, there are some sports like figure skating and gymnastics where you're old when you're 20," said Coburn. "I've been fortunate enough never to have a serious injury. So unless I find Mr. Right, and become a full-time mom, I'll be around."

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