A two-time Olympic freestyle wrestling champion, Bruce Baumgartner has already won one honor in Atlanta: He was chosen by his teammates to carry the American flag into the Olympic stadium at Opening Ceremonies. His next big moment comes when he represents the United States in the 286-pound weight class.

Baumgartner first exhibited his strength and skill in 1981 when he captured the US national championship. He has remained on top for the past 14 years.

A seven-time World Cup gold medalist, Baumgartner is considered the man to beat. This won't come easily; but coming off a 1995 World Championship, he appears to be in top shape.

In his spare time, Baumgartner enjoys woodworking, stamp collecting, gardening, and fishing. Even when he isn't trouncing a foe on the mat, he is teaching others to do so. As head wrestling coach at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pa., he shares his trade secrets with aspiring collegiate athletes.




Women's soccer is off and running for the first time as an Olympic sport, and the United States team has great hopes for the gold medal. One reason is Michelle Akers, the most prolific goal scorer in history in the US women's game.

Forward Akers has scored 91 goals in 105 matches, and in 1995, she helped the US squad finish third in the world championships, behind Norway and Germany.

In its first Olympic matchup on Sunday in Orlando, Fla., the US team walloped Denmark 3-0. Teammates Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett were key scorers. The soccer portion of the Summer Games will be played in various cities, with the finals in Athens, Ga. Tonight Akers and her mates play Sweden.

"She's so good with the ball, so strong with the ball. She can shake off a defender, get some space and then look to play off," says fellow striker Milbrett. "You need people who can hold the ball under pressure, and she can do that."

Akers - who eats two pounds of carrots a day, drinks quarts of juice, and wards off all offerings of dairy and bakery products and alcohol - is excited to be in the Olympics. "I'm here because I love to play," Akers says. "I'm here because I love to compete with the best people and against the best people in the world. That's my motivation."

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