SPORTS CALENDAR

SPORTS CALENDAR

March 4-5

McDonald's American Cup (gymnastics)

For many spectators, gymnastics competition begins and ends with the Olympics. For those with larger viewing appetites, this is one of the events to watch. Held annually since 1976, it brings together a top-caliber international field, this time in Seattle.

March 5

Grand Prix of Miami

Miami will block off downtown streets to let IndyCar drivers show off their cornering ability in the year's first race. Before the IndyCar championship series ends Sept. 10, racers will also be tested on super speedways, short ovals, and permanent road courses.

Los Angeles Marathon

The success of the 1984 Olympic marathon, run on LA's streets, has inspired what promoters call the single most unifying event in the city. Mavis Lindgren, 87, is among the expected starters for the 10th-anniversary race. Mayor Richard Riordan will lead approximately 15,000 riders in the first annual Marathon Bike Tour, a fun ride that precedes the marathon over the same course.

March 6-12

World Figure Skating Championships

Canada's Elvis Stojko and France's Surya Bonaly seem poised to win the singles titles in Birmingham, England. The United States could conceivably miss out on all the hardware for a third straight year.

March 10-12

World Track and Field Indoor Championships

This is a Johnny-come-lately to international track circles -- er, ovals. The first indoor worlds weren't held until 1987 in Indianapolis. This time Barcelona, Spain, plays host in the 1992 Olympic gymnastics arena.

March 11-26

Pan American Games

These are the Western Hemisphere's Olympic tune-up. A sharp divide in results between have- and have-not sports nations often marks the proceedings, timed this year to coincide with the end of summer in Argentina, the host country.

March 16

NCAA basketball tournaments begin

Sixty-four-team men's and women's fields commence play in the lose-and-you're-out National Collegiate Athletic Association postseason playoffs. The participating teams and regional tournament draws will be announced March 12. The defending champions -- Arkansas (men) and North Carolina (women) -- should be in the thick of things.

March 17-26

The Lipton Championships (tennis)

After the Grand Slam tournaments, this is about as big as it gets. The Who's Who of tennis check in to Key Biscayne, Fla., for this mega, co-ed affair, which boasts 96-player draws for both men's and women's singles. Matches are played on hard courts, including a stadium center court ringed by 14,000 seats.

March 23-26

Nabisco Dinah Shore (women's golf)

The men have their Masters, and the women the Dinah Shore as a test of spring shotmaking. The late celebrity planted her namesake tournament in southern California 24 years ago. It thrives in Rancho Mirage, where Donna Andrews will defend her title this year.

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