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For latest news go to or www.olympic.orgOLYMPIC REVIEW65Alongside the absence ofdefending champions theUSA, the emergence of a new baseball nation made as much impact as Cubawinning a third gold medal.Having triumphed inBarcelona in 1992 andAtlanta in 1996, the Cubans were beaten in thefinal in Sydney by the USA but they regained theirgold medal in Athens with a 6-2 victory againstAustralia, the surprisefinalists. Australia hadstunned Japan by beating them 1-0 in thesemi-finals but after losing inSydney, when they had ayoung and inexperiencedinternational team, Cubaboasted the arrival of theirnew talent such as secondbaseman Yulieski Gourriel.Graeme Lloyd, theAustralian pitcher who haswon two World Series withthe New York Yankees,complimented the success ofthe champions. "I keep hearing about the old Cuban team," he said. "These guys came away with a gold medal, sothey're not too bad either. "They mightnot be as strong as they werein the olden days, but theywere strong enough for thiscompetition."Japan beat Canada 11-2to win the bronze.Baseball will make its fifth appearance as amedal sport in Beijing. There are various theoriesas to how the sport evolved, with the roots of themodern game in North America but itsdevelopment very much paralleled English sportssuch as cricket and rounders.In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, a novelwritten in 1798, the author writes about childrenplaying "base-ball" on an village green inEngland, but the essence of the game's imagetoday emerged from 1903 when the first WorldSeries was staged between the best teams inthe United States. The professional game in the U.S. datesback to 1869 and has long been thought of asthe country's national sport. After being ademonstration event at the Stockholm Games in1912, baseball returned in 1936, 1956, 1964,1984 and 1988 before its debut as a medalsport in Barcelona in 1992.Left: Japan's Shinichi Sato hits out during the1992 Barcelona GamesFORMATOver a year out from Beijing, and almost half ofthe teams who will compete in baseball havealready qualified. With eight places available,three have been secured: China, as the hostcountry, and the USA and Cuba, whoprogressed after the American Olympicqualifying event in Havana. The USA had failedto reach the Athens Games in 2004 but itbecame the first sport where they guaranteedtheir participation for 2008.The five remaining countries will come fromthe winners of the European Championships inBarcelona in September, the Asian BaseballChampionships which end in December andthree from an Olympic qualifying tournamentfour months before the start of the Games nextyear. Mexico, Canada, Australia and South Africa are four of the eight teams who havealready qualified to take part in this Olympicqualifying tournament.At the Games, each team meets the other seven once before the top four advance tothe semi-finals. National Olympic Committeesare allowed to select a 24-man squad for the competition.VENUEThe baseball competition will be staged at theWukesong Cultural and Sports Centre, one of thenine temporary competition arenas. It is locatedto the west of the city, 18km from the OlympicVillage at the Olympic Green.The complex will have a seating capacity of15,000 in an arena which has two competitionpitches and a training field. The construction ofthe venue has ben planned in accordance withthe theme of these "Green Games", with the useof solar energy concepts and a rain-waterrecycling system. A baseball test event will takeplace from 18-23 August 2007.Below: An artist's impression of how theWukesong Centre will lookCONTENDERSThe USA are determined to re-establishthemselves at the Olympic Games after thedisappointment of not being in Athens in2004 and they have made an earlyimpression. In Havana inSeptember last year, in frontof 40,000 spectators, theybeat Cuba 8-5 in the final ofthe Americas Olympicqualifying tournament.Even though the final was only meant todecide the winner of the event, because bothhad qualified for Beijing by reaching thatstage, the USA struck a psychological blowagainst the defending Olympic champions andworld champions after Cuba's success at thelatter event in Holland in 2005.Chinese Taipei won gold at the AsianGames in Doha last December with a team including the experience of Chang Tai-Shan, who participated at the Games inAthens. They will be among the favourites forthe Asian Championships, which start inNovember, when the prize is a place in Beijing.Above and below: Chinese Tapei won theAsian Games in Doha last December andshould be contenders in BeijingATHENSREVIEWBASEBALL

66OLYMPIC REVIEWFor latest news go to or www.olympic.orgAt Moscow 1980, BirgitFischer of Germany won theK1 500m and 24 years later,at the age of 42, she was stillon top of the podium. Fischermade it eight gold medalswhen she led her crew toglory in the K4 500m at theSchinias Centre in Athens,beating the Hungarian quartetby 0.196 of a second.Fischer narrowly missed outon a ninth gold whenGermany finished second toHungary's Katalin Kovacs andNatasa Janics in the K2500m. Those Games werealso memorable for Canada'sAdam van Koeverden, whowon gold in the K1 500m, 24hours after securing bronzein the K1 1 000m. In theslalom events, thechurning white seawater at Hellenikohosted a dramatic battle inthe men's C1 competitionbetween Slovakia's MichalMartikan and France's TonyEstanguet, with Estanguetretaining his crown. ElenaKaliska offered someconsolation forSlovakia by takingthe women's K1gold, compounded by theclassy twins Peter and PavolHochschorner taking themen's C2 gold. The men's K1 final ended in asensational victory forFrenchman Benoit Peschier,who defeated fellowcountryman and worldchampion Fabien Lefevre andBriton Campbell Walsh. The origins of canoeingand kayaking stretchback centuries, to whenSouth and NorthAmerican Indians andEskimos used thesecraft as a mode oftransport, fishing andbattle. In the 19th century the formalisation of the sportresulted in the creation of clubs andcompetitions on many continents, starting withthe establishment of the Royal Canoe Club ofLondon in 1866. The first international umbrellafederation was founded in 1924, with the sportsgoverning body, the International CanoeFederation (ICF) being established in 1946, justafter World War Two.There are two distinct disciplines incanoe/kayak. Flatwater racing in kayaks andFORMATTwelve gold medals will be awarded in theFlatwater events in Beijing. Qualification will startat the 2007 World Championships at theDuisburg course in Germany, after which thebalance of the places will be allocated throughthe various continental championships. Theflatwater events will take place over six days,consisting of heats, semi-finals and finals, eachmade up of a maximum of nine boats.Four medals will be awarded in the slalomevents. The slalom racing competition is decidedover four days of heats, semi-finals and finals,where each athlete's score is based on the timeto complete the course, to which two secondsare added for each pole touched, and 50seconds added for each gate missed.Qualification starts at the World Championshipsin Brazil in September, after which the remainingplaces are allocated through continentalchampionships. National Olympic Committeescan enter one boat in each event at the Olympic Games with qualification placesawarded to the NOC, not the athlete.VENUEThe competition will take place at the ShunyiOlympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, a magnificentsetting in vast land to the north east of the city. Ithas been a huge project, with 1.10 million cubicmetres of earth dug out to develop the racingareas alongside a beautifully designed mainseating area and glass watchtower. The park is30km away from the centre of the city and is inthe district of the Capital International Airport.In 2006, the Park was named one of the"Excellent Construction Sites of Year 2006" bythe Beijing 2008 Project ConstructionHeadquarter Office. The artificial slalom, muchlike the courses used in Sydney and Athens, ishighly flexible and easy to adjust to set the levelof difficulty of the course.CONTENDERSThe Flatwater World Championships 2007 inDuisburg (GER) will see the serious Olympictitle contenders battling for medals. The WorldCup season 2006 saw the majority of themajor titles being shared by the establishedstars, determined to time their peak for theBeijing qualification events, particularly asmany nations will not guarantee the Beijingberth to the athlete that qualifies in Duisburg.The teamboat tussle will once again bedominated, in both kayak and canoe, by theeastern European powerhouses, wheredecades of dedication to developing crewscontinue to result in their dominance. However,watch the emergence of the challenge fromthe East, highlighted by the ground-breakingmedals for the Chinese in Athens. Racing ontheir home regatta course, the Chinesechallenge may well be formidable.The slalom contenders have been theconsistent performers in the build-up to thecrucial qualifying event in Brazil in 2007. Elena Kaliska single-handedly raised the bar inthe women's K1 event, after dethroningStepanka Hilgertova, thus heralding the arrivalof a new guard of female slalom stars. In themen's C1 and K1 events, the flames of rivalrythat produced such thrilling sporting spectaclesin Athens have been fanned in the past year. Inparticular, watch Campbell Walsh, the Scottishstar who allowed the men's K1 gold to slipthrough his fingers at Helleniko, try to makeamends in Beijing.Below: Elena Kaliska of SlovakiaATHENSREVIEWCANOE/KAYAKcanoes was introduced as a demonstrationsport at the Paris Games in 1924 and assumedits place in the full medal programme in 1936.Women were included at London 1948. Slalom racing involves competitorsnavigating a short section of rough water, overwhich "gates", consisting of two poles, aresuspended. Penalties are awarded for each gatethat a competitor touches or misses altogether.This discipline was introduced at the 1972Munich Games, where the Augsburg "Eiskanal"proved a great success. It took a full 20 years for slalom to return,mainly due to the costs associated withconstructing suitable courses. However recenteditions of the Games have seen hugelysuccessful slalom events. Left: Ernst Krebs wins gold in the men's K110,000m at the 1936 Berlin Games