Esther Kim and Kay Poe, best friends for 13 years, were on the cusp of competing in tae kwon do in Colorado Springs, Colo., recently to see which one would win a spot on the United States Olympic team. Poe was injured in a preliminary bout, leaving Kim what would be a simple victory.
"But if I beat someone with one leg," Kim says, "I couldn't live with myself." And so, incredibly, Kim bowed out, giving Poe the Olympic berth. "I didn't know how to act," Poe says. "It was courage on Esther's part."
Kim brushed it off: "It's the first time in my life I have felt like I was a champion. In our sport, we are supposed to be champions in the ring and champions in life." Kim, whose father is the team coach, insists she has no regrets: "I'm not giving my dreams away. I'm just handing them over to Kay."
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch was so impressed he telephoned Kim and told her the IOC would pay for her to go to Australia as a spectator. Kim is delighted and says, "It doesn't matter who wins. We're both winners."
The US women's tennis team will have three singles slots. Four players are in contention. At the French Open, Venus Williams was told she was "fighting for a spot with Serena [her sister]." Venus, for whom the Olympic spirit obviously doesn't yet shine, said, "What does that mean?"
When the procedure was explained, she was lukewarm, saying, "If Serena is not there, maybe I won't go."
On the men's side, US superstar Pete Sampras has once again refused to play in the Olympics.
It has been about 11 months since the US women's soccer team stunned the world by beating China in the World Cup. Less than a fortnight ago, the two played for the first time since that epic event. This time, China won, 1-0, on a penalty kick.
Is that a good or bad omen?
US coach April Heinrichs sees it as both: "I'm not pleased with the result, but I am pleased with the way we played."
Mitt Romney, in charge of the 2000 Salt Lake City Winter Games: "I see the Olympics as the most powerful platform in the world for showcasing great qualities of human spirit."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society