Olympics 2000 notebook

A tiny Romanian gymnast lost a gold medal for taking a cold medicine Sept. 26. IOC officials stripped Andreea Raducan of her gold medal in the women's all-around because she tested positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in medicine her team doctor prescribed.

"We consider it was an accident," IOC drug chief Prince Alexandre de Merode said. "The fault falls with the medical doctor."

Small comfort for Raducan, who appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to get her gold medal back. The 82-pound teenager's performance in Sydney brought back memories of fellow Romanian Nadia Comaneci's victory at the Montreal Games in 1976.

The International Olympic Committee allowed Raducan to keep her medals from Romania's triumph in the team competition and her individual silver in the vault. She wasn't checked for drugs after the team event and passed a test following the vault.

To be compared with a legend can boost an ego like little else can. It also can cause untold grief.

And so it seemed here the night of Sept. 26 as America's best diver, Mark Ruiz, stood reflectively for a few moments in the Aquatic Center before competing in the finals of the Olympic men's three-meter springboard diving.

Ruiz's glory and albatross - including his verve and the way he looks - reminds observers of the most famous diver in US history, Greg Louganis.

Louganis made diving a front-and-center sport in 1984 when he went gold in both the springboard and platform diving. Incredibly, he did it again in 1988 in Seoul.

And it could be that some day, Ruiz will find his name at the top of the page with Louganis. Maybe, insiders were thinking, he might start laying that groundwork today. Alas, not this day.

As will happen, and for no fathomable reason, Ruiz offered a flat, uninspired, and loosely put-together effort in the finals to slide to seventh, after finishing fourth in the semifinals in a strong position to medal.

The winner was China's Ni Xiong, who also won four years ago in Atlanta. He scored 708.72, a miniscule .30 ahead of strong-finishing Fernando Platas of Mexico. Xiong has impressive credentials, notably that in Seoul he came within 1.14 points of Louganis in the 10-meter platform competition.

Rain can slow Venus Williams. Her opponents can't. Williams and sister Serena teamed up to move into the women's doubles tennis finals with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Belgians Els Callens and Dominique Van Roost in a match delayed 3-1/2 hours by rain. Venus will play for the women's singles gold Wednesday against No. 10 Elena Dementieva of Russia. Monica Seles outslugged Australian Jelena Dokic 6-1, 6-4 to take the bronze.

The US men won gold for the second straight time as Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana upset Brazil's Ze Marco de Melo and Ricardo Santos 12-11, 12-9 in the beach volleyball final. Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes won the men's tournament for the US at Atlanta four years ago.

For decades, the US men's soccer team has not been taken seriously in world competition. Perhaps a new day has dawned.

Although the Americans lost 3-1 to Spain Sept. 26 in the semifinals, it's by far their best effort ever in the Olympics. Despite the loss, coach Clive Charles was delighted, chortling, "This team has played so well, and we are going to play for bronze and that's unbelievable." The US opponent Sept. 29 will be Chile, which lost to Cameroon.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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