San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico Athletes Battle for the Gold in Athens

ALL hopes may be pinned onOlympic gold-medallist swimmer ClaudiaPoll, but Costa Rica will also keep an eyeon the other 26 athletes the country hassent to the Summer Olympic Games inAthens.The group, the largest sent by anycountry in Central America, includes the20 players of the sub-23 division soccerteam (all under 23 years old) and five otherswho will compete in judo, taekwondo,sharpshooting and mountain biking.Poll, 31, is one of the most distinguishedswimmers in the region, havingwon the gold for the 200-meter open inAtlanta in 1996, and two bronzes, one inthe 200 and the other in the 400-meteropen in Sidney in 2000.Although she was suspended frompublic competition for two years aftertesting positive for an anabolic steroid,Poll maintains her innocence and has fileda case with the Court of Arbitration forSport and another against the laboratoryin Montreal that conducted the steroid test(TT, April 16).She will participate in her specialties,(the 200 and the 400) in Athens, thoughshe has said her goal is not to win medals,rather, to qualify herself among the eightbest female swimmers in each discipline.COSTA Rica’s Olympic soccer teamis in group D with Morocco, Iraq andPortugal. Yesterday, the Ticos debutedagainst Morocco, tying 0-0, and Iraqcrushed Portugal 4-2. Celebratory gunfirelit the night skies in Baghdad, the NewYork Times reported.All three teams will play each other,regardless of whether they win or losetheir matches. On Sunday, the CostaRican players, selected from professionalteams around the country, will take onIraq, and Wednesday, Portugal.“What this is all about is the first timewe are in the Olympic Games, which iswhy we have maximum dedication,” soccercoach Rodrigo Kenton told the AFPnewswire.MOUNTAIN biker Karen Matamoroswill compete today. She placed well in thepast five years in various U.S., CostaRican and other races, including thirdplace in the Iron Horse Classic inDurango, Colo., and second place in the2001 Pan-American Championship inCaxambu, Brazil.Mountain and road cyclist José AdriánBonilla will compete Saturday. Bonillahas a long list of first-place wins innational races and a longer list of strongfinishes and some first places in internationalraces, including races around themountains of California and Colorado andMedellín, Colombia, where he finishedfirst in the 2003 Pan-AmericanChampionships.Air pistol sharpshooter GrettelBarboza will compete in the Olympics forthe first time on Sunday. Her recordincludes rankings among the top 10 shootersin Central American and Caribbeangames in years past and 13th place at the2001 World Cup in Atlanta, Georgia.THIRD-degree black belt in judoDavid Fernández, who has more than adecade of strong placings in national andinternational competitions, will competeSaturday.Kristopher Moitland will pound skullsin the 80-kilogram division during taekwondotournaments Sunday. He has afour-year record of gold medals in nationaland Central American tournaments,took the gold in the Olympic qualifyingtournament in Mexico this year, and abronze in the birthplace of the fightingstyle at the 2000 Open KoreanChampionship in North Korea.THE other Central American countriesand Panama sent smaller teams, and onlyGuatemala is expected to do anything noteworthy.That country sent the region’s second-largest group to the games with 17 athletes,three of whom bear its hopes formedals in taekwondo (TT, Aug. 6). HeidyJuaréz, Euda Carías and Gabriel Sagastumehave all competed in other internationaltournaments with good results.El Salvador sent seven athletes tocompete in weightlifting, cycling, swimming,sharpshooting, track and field andbow-and-arrow marksmanship.Five athletes from Honduras willcompete in track and field, ping-pong,swimming and judo, and Panama is sendingfour athletes, including EileenCoparropa, who placed third in the 50-meter open in the last Pan-AmericanGames.

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