Athletes' routes to Sydney vary by sport


There are as many means for athletes to get to Sydney for the 2000 Olympic Games as there are sports.

The International Olympic Committee decides where the party will be held, but assorted international and national governing bodies oversee the invitation list, and their criteria range from one-shot deals to making subjective judgments based on resumes.

USA Track and Field adheres to a put up-or-shut up system, with the top three finishers in each event at next month's trials going to Australia, as long as minimum standards are met. Michael Johnson is the world's best over 200 and 400 meters, but if he pulls a hamstring, his dream of an Olympic double repeat could vanish.

Swimming operates in a similar pressure cooker.

Contrast that to USA Wrestling. Les Gutches, the national freestyle champion at 187.25 pounds, suffered a training injury and was allowed to pass on last week's trials in Dallas. He'll be given sufficient time to heal, then get a chance to meet the trials champ in a best-of-three series to see who goes to Sydney.

The selection process can differ even within a sport, like tennis. The U.S. teams will be announced July 10, the day after the fortnight at Wimbledon concludes. Billie Jean King, the U.S. women's coach, admits that she's confused by a selection process that requires her to adhere to the WTA's world rankings. An Olympic women's team is limited to just four players, who will cover three singles spots and a doubles team.

But the ATP, which oversees the men's tour, brokered a deal with the ITF, the international governing body, to allow nations to send four men's singles players and a separate doubles team, as long as it is ranked in the top 20.

That means Michael Chang could get in the Olympic men's draw, and U.S. Open champion Serena Williams probably will be left out of the women's. She's ranked No. 8 in the world but behind three Americans, so her participation could be limited to doubles with sister Venus.

Then there are the actual team sports. USA Basketball can replace injured Grant Hill with Kobe Bryant or MiniMe, and Dream Team III will win gold.

Yet from baseball to water polo, the U.S. governing bodies will have to work overtime in the coming months to put together medal-contending teams.

Bobb on Bobb

Now that David Bobb has taken off one of his hats, he should be able to run faster.

Bobb is only three years removed from an NCAA runner-up finish in the 100 for UMBC, which had never been confused for a track and field power. At 25, he's entering the prime of his sprinting life, but Bobb's day job sometimes gets in the way of his own training, a quandary he has confronted as the Retrievers' head coach.

"I know a lot of assistant coaches in my situation," said Bobb, one of the nation's youngest Division I coaches. "I don't know a lot of head coaches trying to do this."

Bobb's development has taken a backseat to UMBC's teams, third among men and fourth among women at the Northeast Conference championships. With the collegiate season over, he has shifted to being an athlete, leaning heavily on Morgan State coach Neville Hodge's tutoring.

"His advice ranges from the technical to the inspirational," Bobb said. "Neville ran in the Olympics for the Virgin Islands and has coached them ... too. I provide the facility, and he provides the knowledge."

Bobb admits that his expertise in the sport was still growing when UMBC hired him in 1998, just after he received a degree in health science and policy.

With a personal best of 10.18 seconds, Bobb isn't a threat to world record-holder Maurice Greene. He's an extreme darkhorse just to survive a round or two at the U.S. trials, but Bobb has made up considerable ground before.

He didn't run track until 1993, when he was a senior at High Point High in Prince George's County, but still won Class 4A state titles in the 100 and 200. UMBC didn't construct a track in its stadium until 1997, when Bobb was already the program's most decorated performer. He got to compete on it once as a collegian.

"It was hard for my predecessors to recruit without a track," Bobb said. "When Jim Pfrogner was recruiting me, he had to take me over to Catonsville Community College to show where we would train."

Zeiger keeps going

Joanna Zeiger is definitely going to compete in Sydney.

The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health doctoral student grabbed the final U.S. women's berth in the triathlon at last month's trials in Dallas.

Zeiger's competition calendar includes a World Cup event in Newfoundland July 30 and the U.S. championships in Chicago Aug. 27.

Et cetera

Maryland Eastern Shore will be represented at the Olympics by Peter Fredericks and J. Michael Wilson. Fredericks, who sprinted for the Hawks, is on the Trinidad & Tobago roster. Wilson, a 1987 graduate, is the USOC's new director of athlete relations, a marketing position. ... Edgemere's J. R. Plienis was eliminated in the first round of the freestyle wrestling trials. He was in the 286-pound class.

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