Sampras sacrifices dearly to represent his country Tennis stars, too, crave Games' gold

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK

April 05, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

Pete Sampras will make sacrifices.

He'll give up two weeks of easy money in tennis exhibitions. He'll stay in an athletes' village without air conditioning. He'll even play on red clay, which is about as appealing to him as watching a tractor pull.

Ah, the things Sampras will do to represent the United States at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

"Playing the Olympics is something that I've always wanted to do," Sampras said. "No matter when they are or where they are, I wanted to go."

Olympic tennis, reintroduced at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, has always looked a lot better on paper than in real life. Serves and volleys get lost on a stage crammed with so many dunks, flips, splashes and leaps. When Steffi Graf won her Olympic gold in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 it wasn't so much a grand moment as a footnote to a Grand Slam season.

But Sampras said the players will approach the Olympics as if they were competing in a fifth Grand Slam event. Sampras will be on a U.S. team led by Jim Courier and Michael Chang. Jennifer Capriati, Gigi Fernandez, Mary Joe Fernandez and Zina Garrison will represent the U.S. women.

"On the tour, you play for yourself," Sampras said. "But in the Davis Cup and the Olympics you play for your country."

Sampras said he has another goal this summer, besides Olympic gold.

"My biggest goal for the summer is to do well at the U.S. Open," said Sampras, the 1990 Open champion.

After all, there are only so many sacrifices a millionaire can make.

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Hot tickets: Sales are brisk for the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials at the Baltimore Arena, June 6-13. The hottest ticket is the women's artistic optional final, the afternoon of the 13th, with nearly 70 percent of the arena sold. For tickets call (410) 481-SEAT.

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And they will all dress alike: The U.S. delegation of 624 medal-sport athletes at the Barcelona Games will be the largest ever. The breakdown is 389 men and 235 women, with track and field contributing 141 performers. Athletes participating in demonstration sports, coaches, managers, and U.S. Olympic Committee officials will push the U.S. count to 865.

Meanwhile, the Unified Team of the Commonwealth of Independent States will have a 749-member delegation. "We have economic problems, but we will find solutions," said Anatoly Kolesov, a vice minister for sport and member of the Russian Olympic Committee. "The IOC will help as far as it can and we will solve the problem together. At the very least, our team in Barcelona will be hoping to repeat the success of 1988."

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Worth their weight: Apparently, ransom is alive and well in international sports. Four Bulgarian weight lifters, including four-time world champion and 1988 Olympics gold medalist Sevdalin Marinov, are living in Australia. Bulgarian officials say the athletes will be able to perform for their new country "if the Australians paid enough money."

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