Everything is falling into place for Kupets

Achilles' healed, gymnast is ready to compete again

Notebook

Olympics

April 18, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Interviewed on the Today show by Katie Couric in February.

Named to the honor roll at Rockville's Magruder High School in March.

And the subject of her own Sports Illustrated for Kids sports card this month.

So, what do you do for an encore, Courtney Kupets?

The 17-year-old gymnast grins. "I don't know. It's all pretty cool," she says.

Kupets, the 2003 national all-around champion, has been in intense rehabilitation since tearing her Achilles' tendon last August at the world championships.

Just before Easter, Kupets and other elite gymnasts went to a monthly training program at Bela and Martha Karolyi's ranch outside Houston. Kupets passed her physical ability test and performed half of the routines she'll use at the national championships June 2-5 and the U.S. Olympic trials later that month.

"Courtney's 100 percent," says her coach, Kelli Hill. "If the surgery went well - and it did - we knew she'd be right here. Her physical therapy went really well, and she has worked her tail off."

Kupets most likely will compete on the uneven bars and beam on May 14-16 at the U.S. Classic in Rochester, N.Y. Immediately afterward, she will perform in all four events (adding the floor exercise and vault) at an international invitational at the Karoyli ranch.

"I'm doing all my skills, and now I'm working on putting them all in one routine," says Kupets, the 2002 uneven bars world champion. "I'm getting my confidence back in every skill. When you come back, that takes time."

And time, which once seemed to be working against Kupets after her injury, seems to have cut her a break.

By not suffering any setbacks, Hill says her young charge was able to maintain focus and build confidence.

"As long as it comes together in June," says Hill, smiling. "No problem. No pressure."

Marathon preview

If you're looking for members of the U.S. Olympic squad at tomorrow's 108th running of the Boston Marathon, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if it's a look at their Summer Games competition you want, this is the place.

The world's oldest annual marathon has attracted a field of more than 20,000, including an elite class of 29 male and female athletes - none of whom is American.

The U.S. team picked its marathoners at trials in February and March, and those athletes were unwilling to disrupt training or risk injury to compete.

The race will feature 2003 champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (2 hours, 10 minutes, 11 seconds) and two-time winner Catherine Ndereba, who will be competing in Athens. Both are from Kenya.

Cheruiyot will be challenged by countrymen Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai and Martin Lel, who finished in second and third place last year. Lel is an alternate on the Kenya Olympic squad.

Ndereba, the second-fastest woman in the history of the distance and the 2000 and 2001 winner in Boston, will be challenged by Lyubov Denisova, a Russian who finished second in Boston last year, and two-time Olympian Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia. Last year's winner, Svetlana Zakharova of Russia (2:25:20), did not enter.

For the first time, the women will leave the starting line in Hopkinton 29 minutes in front of the men's elite field and thousands of recreational runners.

According to Boston Athletic Association officials, only four athletes have won the Boston Marathon and an Olympic gold medal: Portugal's Rosa Mota, Joan Benoit Samuelson of the United States, Ethiopia's Fatuma Roba and the only male double winner, Gelindo Bordin of Italy.

Strong sailing effort

As a confidence builder, the first European regatta for Carol Cronin and Anne Arundel County residents Liz Filter and Nancy Haberland was just what the doctor ordered.

The three sailors finished eighth out of 30 entries in the Yngling class during the five-day HRH Princess Sofia Trophy event, held in Spain's Bay of Palma.

The women had never sailed in the bay just south of Barcelona and say it took some getting used to. But after a ragged beginning, when the first race started without them, they logged two first-place and two second-place finishes in the 12-race competition.

"[We] achieved our goal of checking our progress against the Europeans," says skipper Cronin, of Jamestown, R.I. "We now know what we need to work on between now and the games in Athens. "

The regatta was won by the team from the Netherlands, followed by New Zealand and Germany.

More than 600 boats representing 50 nations participated in the event, despite the cancellation of the Mistral, 49er and Star classes because of scheduling conflicts with other international sailing events.

Cronin, Filter and Haberland will compete in the Semaine Olympique in Hyres, France, from April 23-30 and then take part in the Women's Worlds from May 7-15 in Santander, Spain.

Games at a glance

When: Aug. 13-29

Where: Athens, Greece

Sports: 28

Countries: 202

Athletes: 10,500

Events: 296

TV: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo

Web site: www.athens2004.com

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