In the Summer Olympics, there's a lot of blue, gold
More than 30 Cal Bears will compete
By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
Thirty-three Berkeley athletes, including 12 current students, will compete on behalf of Australia, Croatia, Eritrea, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Thailand, the United States and Yugoslavia. And Cal's head gymnastics coach, Barry Weiner, will be assistant coach for U.S. men's gymnastics.
Cal Olympians will compete in men's basketball and gymnastics, as well as both the men's and women's competitions in rowing, track and field, swimming and water polo.
For sheer numbers of Cal athletes, rowing rules: 11 will ply the Olympic rowing course at windy Penrith Lakes, on the outskirts of Sydney. Laurel Korholz will compete in the women's quadruple sculls. Four Cal oarsmen, all from the same Belgrade rowing club, will row for Yugoslavia; three will compete for the United States, two for Norway and one for Canada.
"Rowing at Cal has an illustrious tradition," says head rowing coach Steve Gladstone. "It was our first sport, way back in 1870. We took three Olympic gold medals, in '28, '32 and '48.... We've been national champions for 1999 and 2000."
"All of them have interesting stories," Gladstone said of Cal's Olympians in rowing. "Sebastian Bea had a lot of success in high school and was on the national championship crew in 1999."
A senior English and economics major, Bea will compete against Cal alum Djordje Visacki in the coxless pair - Bea for the United Staets, Visacki for Yugoslavia.
"We're terribly excited, because we've been following his career since high school," says Bea's father, California Superior Court Magistrate Carlos Bea, who played baseball for Cuba in the 1952 Olympics .
"I have to say, and this is coming from a guy who played three years against Cal (for Stanford), Sebastian's years at Cal really formed him not only as an athlete but as a student and a man.... He owes a great deal to (coach) Steve Gladstone, and freshman coach Craig Amerkhanian."
Bea, Sr. calls Gladstone "the preeminent crew coach in America today - at any level. It's completely unheard of for a college coach to have this many participants in the Olympic Games."
Six Cal swimmers, two of them current students, will compete in Sydney.
Sophomore Staciana Stitts is the first Cal student to make the U.S. Women's Olympic Swim Team since 1988.
Stitts won gold and silver medals in the 1998 Goodwill Games and another gold at the Pan American Games last year, breaking the games' record with a 1:09.16 finish in the 100-meter breaststroke. She then swam 1:07.79 at the Olympic Trials in August and is believed to have a chance for a medal.
Many are also watching potential medallist Anthony Ervin, a sophomore from Valencia, Calif., who holds the world record in the 50-meter freestyle (short course) and several other records. Ervin is the first athlete of African-American heritage to make the U.S. Team.
Four former Cal swimmers will also go to Sydney - Bart Kizierowski and Gordan Kozulj in the men's, Waen Minpraphal and Elli Overton in the women's, representing Poland, Croatia, Thailand and Australia, respectively.
Senior Nicole DiSalvio, who led the Cal team to the College World Series each of the last two years, begins pre-Olympic training this week as a pitcher on the Italian women's team, which opens against China Sept. 16.
"I can't wait for the Olympic Village," DiSalvio was quoted as saying from Macerata, Italy. "I grew up hearing about Olympic athletes... I can't explain how excited I am..."
A specialist in slider and screwball pitches, DiSalvio landed on the Italian team thanks to the Internet and Italy's effort to boost the sport. After Italy qualified for their first Olympic competition by defeating the Netherlands last year, the team's coaches used the World Wide Web to search the rosters of American universities for pitchers with Italian surnames and softball prowess.
When she got the invitation, it took birth, marriage and death records - culled from repositories in California and several East Coast states - to authenticate the family lineage. The documents proved that her paternal great grandfather never renounced his Italian citizenship after emigrating to the United States from Naples in 1907. Because of this, she qualified for dual citizenship under Italy's citizenship rules.
Head Gymnastics Coach Barry Weiner, now in his ninth year at Cal, rounds out Berkeley's presence at the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he will be assistant coach for the U.S. Men's Gymnastic Team. Weiner is largely credited with developing the men's gymnastics program into one of the nation's finest.
Named National Coach of the Year in 1997, he led the Golden Bears to a perfect 17-0 regular season that year, and the team's first NCAA title since 1975. The following year he upped the ante, as Cal swept through the entire '98 season without a loss and garnered its second consecutive team championship.
Watch for basketball stars Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jason Kidd and Cal graduate Joy Biefeld Fawcett, a veteran of the U.S. soccer team that took the Women's World Cup last year.
Abdur-Rahim attended Cal for one year (1995-96) before turning pro. He now plays for the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA. Kidd played at Cal for two seasons (1992-93 and '93-94) before signing a professional contract. He plays for the Phoenix Suns.
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