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Olympics Notebook

July 29, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Mary Lou Retton will be there. So will Olga Korbut. Nadia Comaneci and her husband, Bart Conner, will be on hand along with the 1984 U.S. men’s gold medal gang.

Add a few more stars from yesteryear, throw in all the medalists from this year’s games and you have the guest list for Tuesday’s inaugural Olympic gymnastics gala exhibition.

Past heroes will only be required to smile and wave as they turn center stage over to the guests of honor: the newest medalists.

As somewhat of an encore, the recently crowned champions will get to show off their skills without the pressure of judges and with a splash of Hollywood-style production.

``We’re going to stage it like a show,″ event organizer Mike Milidonis said. ``For example, we’ll have three balance beams up and have the gold, silver and bronze medalists all do the compulsory routine together.″

The concept was modeled after the program figure skaters have used at the past few Winter Games.

The time was right to add it for the Summer Games, and gymnastics is a perfect fit. More than 30,000 tickets were snapped up without any promotion, and NBC will televise much of the two-hour performance.

Retton expects the gathering to encourage future generations.

``This is how champions are born _ getting inspiration from the people who have performed before them,″ she said. ``Nadia was my idol. She inspired me to get into the sport, then my dreams became a reality.″


BOXERS SIGNED: Two boxers who defected from the Cuban Olympic team in June have signed promotional contracts with Main Events, Inc.

Dino Duva, president of Main Events, said bantamweight Joel Casamayor and light heavyweight Ramon Garbey have signed 2-year-old contracts calling for eight fights a year.

Casamayor, Garbey and Duva plan a news conference Tuesday morning at an Atlanta bar-restaurant.

Luis DeCubas will manage Casamayor, the 1992 Olympic champion at 119 pounds, and Garbey, a 178-pound world champion in 1993.

``It will be a few weeks before they are cleared to fight in the United States,″ Duva said, ``and they still have to apply for formal political asylum, which could take a year.″


FAMILY THING: Robyn Maher accompanied her husband, Thomas, to the Olympics for practical as well as personal reasons. Thomas coaches the Australian women’s basketball team, and Robyn is one of his starting guards.

The Mahers, married 13 years, met when he was an assistant coach on her professional team in Melbourne. Thomas Maher has been Robyn’s pro coach for the past 10 seasons and has been the national team coach the past four years.

``We’re pretty used to each other,″ Robyn Maher said. ``We don’t argue much about the game.″

They avoid taking the game home with them. A 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter see to that.


CALM DOWN: The crowds at Olympic Stadium have been very enthusiastic. Nearly each session of track and field has drawn more than 80,000 to the 85,000-seat stadium, even the morning qualification round.

The fans have cheered loudly, especially for Americans, and occasionally have done the wave.

But their enthusiasm was a bit too much Monday morning. As the fans did the wave, the public address announcer had to ask them to quiet down.

``We know you’re enjoying doing the wave,″ he said. ``But you’re delaying the start of the 1,500-meter qualifying.″

They stopped the wave and went back to cheering the runners.


NICE GUY: Olympic silver medalist Matt Ghaffari paid a surprise hospital visit to the daughter of the woman killed in the Centennial Park bombing.

``He was very nice to me,″ 14-year-old Fallon Stubbs said Sunday. ``I didn’t even know his name, but he gave me a little hat with an American flag on it that he wore on the medal stand, some T-shirts and an Olympic pin.″

Ghaffari finished second in the 286-pound class of Greco-Roman wrestling. He said the teen-ager told him, ``You have a big head, you must have a big heart.″


BIG NEWS BACK HOME: A gold medal is already paying dividends for Lee Lai-shan, Hong Kong’s first medal winner in 44 years of Olympic competition.

Hong Kong’s subway company has offered Lee free trips for life ``to recognize her admirable achievement.″

Lee received her medal Monday, one day after clinching the championship in windsurfing. It comes less than a year before the British colony returns to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.

Hong Kong newspapers splashed Lee’s photo across their front pages. The South China Morning Post urged Hong Kong teen-agers to use her as a role model.

Her victory ``shows Hong Kong can produce people with the stamina and sporting skills to rank among the world’s top athletes,″ the newspaper said.


NEXT, THE WORLDS: Olympic heptathlon gold medalist Ghada Shouaa of Syria isn’t lacking in confidence.

``I did not break the world record in Atlanta, but I will do that in Athens next summer,″ she said Monday, referring to the world championships.

Shouaa is now only the third Arab woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Algerian Hassiba Boulmerak won the 1,500 meters in Barcelona, and Morocco’s Nawal Al-Moutawakil won the 400 hurdles in Los Angeles in 1984.

Shouaa appeared to make little of her triumph when she told Damascus Radio: ``My job was easy in the absence of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.″

Joyner-Kersee, the world-record holder and two-time defending Olympic champion, withdrew after just one event because of an injury.

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