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Eights, Three New Olympic Events Hit Water

July 22, 1996

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) _ The U.S. men’s eight crew has been feeling a little neglected.

All the media attention this week has focused on the U.S. women’s eight, the defending world champions and favorites to win their first gold medal at a boycott-free Olympics.

The U.S. men used to dominate the eights, winning eight straight gold medals between 1920 and 1964. But their best finish over the next three decades was a silver medal in 1988.

Fred Honebein, who sets the pace as the crew’s stroke, thinks the time has come for a resurrection even though the Netherlands and Germany are the favorites.

``It’s basically a crapshoot when we get out there,″ Honebein said. ``We have to be really focused. If the time’s right and everything’s right, we have the potential to do it. The only person standing in our way is ourselves.″

Preliminary heats in the men’s and women’s eights highlight today’s competition at Lake Lanier along with the debut of three new events _ the men’s and women’s lightweight double sculls and the men’s lightweight coxless four. Those events replace the men’s pair and four with coxswain and the women’s four without coxswain.

Canada’s Wendy Wiebe and Colleen Miller are expected to add Olympic gold to their three world titles in the lightweight double sculls.

Two pairs of American women advanced to the semifinals after Sunday’s opening events.

Missy Schwen and Karen Kraft, silver medalists at last year’s world championships, won their Olympic preliminary heat in women’s pair by more than a boat length with a time of 7 minutes, 34.29 seconds.

``The semifinal was what we wanted,″ said Kraft, of Newport, Wash. ``We wanted to race hard and come off the water knowing where we can make improvements and have three days to recover.″

Schwen, of San Francisco, and Kraft wanted to win and cut out the extra race to allow their muscles to recover.

Michelle Knox Zaloom of Washington, D.C., and Jennifer Devine of Philadelphia joined Schwen and Kraft in reaching the semifinals. Zaloom and Devine, who qualified for the Olympics in June, finished third in their double sculls heat where the top three advanced.

Steven Redgrave of Britain easily advanced to Thursday’s semifinal in the men’s pair with partner Matthew Pinsent. Redgrave hopes to become only the fourth Olympian to win four gold medals at four consecutive games. The others are U.S. discus thrower Al Oerter, Danish yachtsman Paul Elvstrom and Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich.

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