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The Three W’s of Atlanta _ Winning, Waiting, Wishing

July 24, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ While the U.S. women’s softball team was winning, swimmer Janet Evans was waiting and gymnast Kerri Strug was wishing.

Evans, the four-time gold medalist, qualified Wednesday for the finals of the 800-meter freestyle, but won’t compete for another Atlanta Games gold until Thursday. The women’s softball team received more immediate gratification, winning its fourth straight game, 4-0 over Taiwan.

The 18-year-old Strug, whose courageous vault on an injured ankle made her an instant hero and helped earn an unprecedented U.S. gymnastics team gold, said her two torn ligaments would keep her from competing in this week’s all-around competition.

But she’s wishing for a chance at competing Sunday and Monday in the individual events finals. If not, Strug will leave Atlanta with memories of her leap of a lifetime, already replayed endlessly, and the gold medal that came with it.

A pair of undefeated American squads _ the U.S. baseball team and the Dream Team _ were both in action later Wednesday. The basketball team, which has looked sluggish, played defending bronze medalist Lithuania, led by Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis.

The powerhouse U.S. softball team continued its impressive roll through the first-ever Olympic competition in its sport. Lori Harrigan threw a two-hitter as the Americans posted their third shutout in four games.

The combined scores of the four victories was indicative of the domination: United States 29, victims 1. The only criticism of the U.S. team has come from its own players.

``I would have liked more strikeouts, but you’re never going to be satisfied with the way you’re throwing, especially with the way a lot of pitchers are on this team,″ said Harrigan, 25, who fanned five.

Evans is chasing Bonnie Blair’s mark of five gold medals, the most ever won by an American woman. But she failed to qualify in Monday’s 400-meter freestyle, forcing her to wait two days for the 800-meter heats.

She bounced back and finished sixth overall to qualify for Thursday’s final. Evans, who has won four golds and one silver in two previous Olympics, was philosophical about what is likely the final race of her career.

``I’ll swim again tomorrow, which I’m happy about,″ said Evans, who smiled widely upon learning she was in. ``But if it had been the end of my career this morning that would have been fine, too.″

Yugoslavia’s basketball team was shaping up as the biggest challenge to American superiority, running its record to 3-0 with a 118-65 thrashing of South Korea. The Miami Heat’s Predrag Danilovic scored 19 points to lead the Yugoslavs.

The rest of Wednesday’s results were a mixed bag for the Americans.

Light heavyweight Antonio Tarver defeated Russia’s Dmitry Vybornov with a performance so listless even the U.S. fans booed. The boxers have won eight of their first nine bouts.

Erin Hartwell, riding the brand new Super Bike II, won America’s first silver medal in cycling since the 1984 Games when he finished second in the 1-kilometer time trial.

``The thing is a rocket ship,″ marveled Hartwell, who won a bronze on a conventional bike in Barcelona.

But Richey Reneberg, a late replacement for Pete Sampras in Olympic singles, retired because of a groin injury in the third set of his opening-round match today against Leander Paes of India. The injury will likely keep Reneberg from teaming in the doubles with Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington.

U.S. coach Tom Gullickson is hopeful that Andre Agassi might replace Reneberg and team with Washington, who won his Olympic debut Wednesday over Jan Kroslak 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Other tennis winners were American Lindsay Davenport, Conchita Martinez of Spain and Thomas Enqvist of Sweden.

The women’s field hockey team lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to England, but remained in contention for its first medal in 12 years. The men’s field hockey team remained winless in the Summer Games _ the last five, to be exact _ after a 4-0 loss today to India. The men are 0-22-4 in Olympic competition.

The U.S. men made a sandy stand at their debut in beach volleyball, winning their first two matches. And the eight-woman U.S. rowing team won Wednesday to reach the Olympic finals, where they are favored to win their first gold medal at a boycott-free games.

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