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Injury Ends Finn Shot Putter’s Medal Chances

July 27, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ A year ago, Mika Halvari of Finland was the world indoor shot put champion and a threat to win Olympic gold.

But Halvari, coming off an Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him from February until two weeks before the games, failed to qualify for the finals Friday _ by a scant three-quarters of an inch.

Halvari, whose best career throw was 70 feet, 6 1/2 inches, managed 63-6 3/4 on his first attempt and never topped that. He finished eighth in Group B.

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CROWD FAVORITE: The rest of the 5,000-meter field had lapped Rachida Mahamane of Nigeria, not once but twice. And still the 14-year-old ran on.

Soon she was alone on the track, one lonesome runner destined to finish last in her heat. When the crowd of 80,000 saw her running by herself, it began cheering her on. By the time she reached the finish line, the teen-ager was being accorded a standing ovation.

Her time of 19:17.87 was almost 3 full minutes behind the next slowest finisher, Allison Wyeth of Britain, who was timed in 16:24.74. The heat was won by Sonia O’Sullivan of Ireland in 15:15.80.

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WHO’S HE? Michael Johnson admitted that he was unfamiliar with almost every other runner in his heat of the 400-meter run. So when he looked to his right at the finish line, he surely didn’t recognize the man in front of him: Sugath Thilakaratne of Sri Lanka.

The 23-year-old Thilakaratne is in his third year on the national team and is the youngest of five children. He won the gold medal at the SAF Games and was third in the 1995 Asian Championships.

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JUMPERS JOLTED: Missing from the high jump qualifying round was Patrik Sjoberg of Sweden, who won two silver and a bronze medals in the last three Olympics. Sjoberg reinjured a thigh muscle during training on Tuesday and withdrew.

Two other top jumpers, Dalton Grant of Britain and Stevan Zoric of Yugoslavia, failed to make it past the qualifying round. Grant’s best effort was 7-5 and Zoric did 7- 1/2.

Charles Austin was the only American to advance with a jump of 7-5 3/4, the qualifying height. Ed Broxterman (7- 1/2) and Cameron Wright (7-2 1/2) were eliminated.

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ANYBODY GOT A TICKET? There’s no danger of Mike Conley, the Olympic record holder in the triple jump, losing his perspective. He has his 9-year-old son Mike Jr. along.

``My biggest concern has been landing Dream Team tickets for Michael,″ Conley said after qualifying. ``The Dream Team is much more important than dad winning the gold. That’s nothing to him. I’m just dad. It’s always, `Give me some money, or some candy or some toys.′ Sons just don’t care about gold medals.″

For the record, Conley came through with the tickets, courtesy of a producer from CNN.

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