Diving competition ends with dramatic U.S. win PAN AM GAMES

August 07, 1991

HAVANA YNB — HAVANA -- Mark Lenzi defied the boos and whistles of a raucous crowd as he stood on the board, then nailed the most nervous dive of his life to win a rare U.S. gold in the Pan American Games.

"Rodney Dangerfield said, 'Tough crowd.' He hasn't seen anything until he's seen this," Lenzi said.

He and Cuban Abel Ramirez dueled dramatically on the 1-meter springboard for more than an hour yesterday in the hot, humid pool complex, where the 3,500 fans jammed into overhanging seats roared and hooted as if they were at a boxing match.

Lenzi's victory gave the Americans a sweep of the diving events so far. The United States won the men's and women's 3-meter springboard, but Cuba still was way ahead in total medals. After the diving, Cuba had 43 total medals, 26 gold to 33 medals and nine golds for the United States.

Midway through the six dives, Ramirez and Lenzi were tied at 202.5 points, and far enough ahead of the seven other divers that no one else mattered except to see who would win the bronze.

On the last dive, Ramirez stood on the board for a minute as a teammate splashed water from the side into his target area to help him see the surface better. The crowd fell so silent, it could hear the spray sprinkle down on the pool.

When Ramirez hit the water cleanly after a forward 3 1/2 somersault in a tuck position, the fans went wild. Ramirez's teammates hugged him and hoisted him into the air as he pumped his fist in triumph. The judges didn't go quite so wild, but they gave him 66.6 points for a 397.62 total that put pressure on Lenzi to come back with at least a 62.1 points.

"I love a challenge, and to me that was the ultimate challenge," Lenzi said. "They're booing me as I'm standing on the boards, and I have to hit it to win. I just tried to forget about what they're doing, because they're not on the boards, I am. So what I do is what matters, not them.

"I knew I had one of my best dives on 1 meter, and I knew I could nail it," he said. "I was trying to keep myself calm, because my hands were shaking. I've never been that nervous."

He waited for an official to give him the signal to go, then he took off on a reverse 1 1/2 with 2 1/2 twists.

"I was so nervous, I buckled a little bit," he said. "I thought I was going to be out, so I pulled my shoulders back to keep over the board. Evidently I did it just in time."

The crowd was quiet as it waited for his numbers, then grumbled when the winning score -- 67.5 for a 402.75 total -- flashed on the board.

Men's basketball

The U.S. team qualified for the quarterfinals, then got ready to head home for a few days.

It isn't because things haven't been just fine in Havana. Rather, coach Gene Keady just wants some intense, private practices.

The team was to leave hours after its 87-81 victory over Argentina, its third in as many games and the one that assured a quarterfinal berth. The next game isn't scheduled until Friday night against the Bahamas.

"I'll like to get to Miami so we can practice the way we want to for two days," Keady said. "It's not that everything here hasn't been great -- from the living quarters to the food to the facilities. We just want to practice in private."

USOC officials indicated these plans were set before the competition because the players were to be in Havana for 19 days, longer than any other athletes.

The United States didn't put Argentina (0-2) away until the final 90 seconds. The Argentines, who used just six players for most of the game, were within 80-78 with 1:58 left when Diego Osella made one of two free throws.

Tony Bennett hit a three-pointer, just the United States' second of the game, 27 seconds later for a five-point lead.

Women's softball

Debbie Doom, a UCLA graduate, threw her second perfect game in two tries, beating Nicaragua, 8-0.

She struck out 17, including 10 straight at one point.

Boxing

American heavyweight Shannon Briggs drew a bye into the final against either Felix Savon, one of four world champions on the Cuban team, and Canadian Tom Glesby. That guarantees Briggs of a silver medal, at least.

Baseball

Jason Giambi drove in four runs, while Chris Roberts and Charles Johnson both hit two-run home runs, as U.S. hitters combined for 14 hits against two Mexican pitchers in a 12-4 romp.

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