California Dreamin' Becomes An Olympic Reality in Chula Vista
THERE is probably not a more logical sports training address in the world than southern California. Many world-class athletes, both from the United States and other countries, already live and train there, and soon more Americans will join them. That's because on Saturday the US Olympic Committee began operating its first year-round, warm-weather training center, a 150-acre complex in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista.
This represents an important piece in a training-facility master plan, which began with the opening of the Olympic Training Center at the Colorado Springs, Colo., US Olympic headquarters, in 1977. In the mid-1980s, Lake Placid, N.Y., and Marquette, Mich., were designated as training sites, primarily for winter athletes.
What makes Chula Vista special is not only the location, but also the investment: $81.5 million in a complex built from the ground up. National teams and sports organizations will use a dormitory, track, tennis courts, and the largest archery range in North America. Aquatics facilities will be completed as soon as funds become available.
When it comes to the Olympics, this project further confirms California's status as the Golden State. California not only has hosted the summer Games twice (1932 and 1984) and the winter Games once (1960), but it also is far and away the major producer of US Olympians. The state sent 140 athletes to the '92 Barcelona Games.
Second bounces from college championships
THE end of the college sports year is traditionally marked by a blur of championship events. Since the beginning of May, titles have been awarded in softball, golf, lacrosse, tennis, outdoor track, men's volleyball, and baseball.
The men's College World Series concluded on Saturday in Omaha, Neb., where top-seeded California State-Fullerton completed an undefeated postseason by beating the University of Southern California, 11-5, in a championship game punctuated by a record-tying seven home runs.
In retrospect, tennis and softball produced two of the most notable results.
Stanford University, which finished the tennis season 27-0, became the first team to win the men's crown with a perfect record in 17 years, or since John McEnroe led the Cardinals in 1978.
The multicultural flavor of American college tennis was also evident, as Armenian Sargis Sargsian of Arizona State won the national singles title and Mahesh Bhupathi of Oman teamed with Tennessean Ali Hamadeh of the University of Mississippi to win the doubles.
Softball, a sports played strictly by women, accounted for the biggest controversy of the spring. The flap arose when UCLA enlisted the services of a pitcher, Tanya Harding, whose name recalled another sports storm, that one involving Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding.
UCLA's Harding, an Australian import, skipped out of school right after leading the Bruins to the school's eighth national championship and collecting the Most Valuable Player award at the eight-team tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla.
What outraged many observers was that Harding, an outstanding fast-pitch hurler with a 17-1 record during a 10-week stay in the US, paid almost no academic dues. She enrolled at UCLA on March 22, took the minimum course load, then departed before completing even a single semester.
Free shots no gimmes
THE presence of the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals is proof positive that poor free-throw shooting is not an insurmountable obstacle. Orlando is this season's least accurate NBA team from the foul line, with a league-worst shooting percentage of .669.
Shaquille O'Neal's personal woes at the line (.533) are often cited as a potential Achilles heel for the team during the playoffs. Three teams, however, have won championships with the league's worst free-throw success rate: Philadelphia in 1967, Washington in 1978, and the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982. But Orlando is not likely to join them.
The perils of misfiring from the foul line have been a factor in the current championship series. Orlando could have sealed a victory in Game 1 if Nick Anderson had made just one of four free throws in the last 11 seconds, but he missed each attempt.
Houston tied the game on a Kenny Smith three-point basket with 1.6 seconds left, and the Rockets went on to win 120-118 in overtime.
Houston now leads the series 3-0 and could wrap up its second consecutive championship with a victory at home Wednesday night.
Orlando's chief shooting deficiency in the finals, as it's turned out, has come from three-point range, where the Magic made only eight of 31 attempts in what for them was a must-win situation in Sunday's Game 3. No team has ever come back to win a championship after losing the first three games.
Old-style contract talks
MOST athletes today are pleased to let agents handle their contract talks. Still, some like to negotiate the old-fashioned way - by themselves. Pro Football Weekly reports that nine players on the Los Angeles Raiders, a team of free spirits, are self-represented.