August 28, 2004

Poor sportsmanship a rarity in gymnastics

If there is one thing guaranteed to get gymnastics fans riled up, it is the implication that "sequins" and "bobbles" bring into question the validity of an awesomely challenging sport.

If there is another thing certain to get the blood boiling, it is the media's constant misperceptions of the athletes.

Laura Vecsey's column of Aug. 20 ["Russian shows an all-around lack of class"] was correct in noting gymnast Svetlana Khorkina's atrocious attitude and outspoken ungracious reaction to her second-place Olympic finish. However, Vecsey's lack of knowledge of the sport was on full display as well.

Khorkina's attitude, the "bitter, sour, miserable grapes" as Vecsey refers to it, is not, as the writer implies, gymnastics as usual.

What makes Khorkina's petulance newsworthy is its rarity. In an era when sports are hampered by drug scandals, million-dollar endorsements and public rivalries, gymnastics is a sport in which athletes compete more with themselves than against each other.

It is almost impossible to find a gymnast willing to badmouth or show disrespect for her competitors. Focused entirely on Khorkina's wrath, Vecsey failed to mention the sheer grace with which American Carly Patterson handled her victory.

Confident yet genuinely modest, Patterson clearly respects herself and her competitors and is appropriately awed by her own achievement. That is what should have made the news.

Caroline Gifford Ellicott City

P. Hamm is victim of irresponsible judges

Olympic organizers need to stand firm against the whiners who are challenging a multitude of judging decisions that have been made at the events.

It is unfair to call on the athletes to make decisions in lieu of the mistakes of the judges as well. Suddenly, an Olympic champion like gymnast Paul Hamm is made out to be the bad guy. He is an innocent victim of the judges' mistakes.

Those who are calling for him to give up his all-around gold medal are asking too much. The judges are trying to shift the responsibility for their error to him. It's not fair to put the burden of this decision on Hamm.

If anyone should be angry, it should be Hamm, but he is trying to be gracious and calm through the turmoil. What a shame to have a lifelong dream turn out the way it has.

Maria Elmiger Glenville, Pa.

Reconsider decision to cut horse charts

I am writing in regard to the recent decision of The Sun to discontinue publishing full racing result charts.

At a time when the Maryland horse industry is trying to keep pace with the states around us that are drawing our business away by offering much larger purses and incentives increased by expanded gaming, The Sun's action is counterproductive to our efforts.

The charts coverage The Sun offered in the past allowed us to keep fans up to date on the players. Including the name of the winner's sire, dam, state bred in, breeder, trainer and owner shows how Maryland is holding up to the competition.

The Maryland Horse Breeders Association hopes The Sun will reconsider its decision.

William K. Boniface Timonium

Note: The writer is president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

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