Soccer Team Brightens Gloom in Athens
ONE glimmer of hope illuminated aweek wrecked by defeat for Costa Rica’sOlympic athletes in Athens. The soccerteam rallied from a trip out of the runningWednesday with a decisive 4-2 victoryover Portugal.Swimmer Claudia Poll couldn’t buckup the country’s plummeting spirits.Though she is a two-time Olympic medallistand was the cover girl for nearly everynational newspaper, including this one, shelost as readily as the country’s judo fighterand the sharpshooter this week.The soccer team, the stars of theOlympic games at press time, had tiedMorocco 0-0 in the first of its D groupmatches, then lost to the group champ,Iraq, Sunday 2-0, but rebounded with thevictory over Portugal Wednesday thatsecured its spot in the quarterfinals – forthe first time in Costa Rica’s history.“WE played with a real team and nowwe are working harder, correcting our mistakesand getting in shape for the matchagainst Argentina,” midfielder CarlosHernández told AFP.In the stadium on the island of Crete,Portugal put the first goal on the board inthe 29th minute. But Costa Rica began toturn the tide with a goal in the 50th by JoséVillalobos. Portugal then knocked anotherin on the heels of Costa Rica’s in the 54th.Just when things were looking grimfor fans in San José, Portugal scored on itsown goal in the 68th for Costa Rica andthen Costa Rica’s Alvaro Saborío scored inthe 71st. Though beating Portugal, CostaRica had still not landed a spot in the quarterfinalsuntil Pablo Brenes sealed the victoryand headed in a shot in the 91st.Brenes told AFP he was very happy“because the team has turned around andplays as a unit. But also I want to congratulatethe fans who give us lots of support.”EARLIER in the week, Poll failed toqualify for the finals of either of the tworaces she entered, the 200-meter and the400-meter free.She finished 10th in the semifinals ofthe 200-meter free Monday after a dazzlingqualifying race that morning, so fast itproved to be her downfall.She took the second-best time out of 41contestants in the qualifying race, losingonly to the U.S. favorite Dana Vollmer. Pollclocked in at 1:59.50 and Vollmer at 1:59.49,according to the daily La Nación.Her coach Francisco Rivas later toldthe press that her strong opening race hadleft her burned out for the afternoon’ssemifinal. There, she couldn’t even repeather morning time, coming in at 1:59.75.She failed to meet her two goals for thegames, to qualify for the final and toimprove her time of the year.She also lost the qualifying race forthe semifinals of the 400-meter freeSunday.“I promised my best effort and I gavemy best,” she wrote in a statement to LaNación. “I promised you I would fight toimprove my times and I accomplished halfof that. I promised you I would fight forqualification and I made it to the doorstepof the final. The results I got are a faithfulreflection of my current ability. I struggledmy hardest in intensive training as I havenever done in my entire sports career.”Grettel Barboza’s first trip to theOlympics was not a disappointment for theair pistol sharpshooter – the 47-year-oldresident of the Central Valley town Escazúfinished third in the Americas and firstamong Latin American countries.She shared the ranking withColombian Amanda Mondol and CubanMargartia Tarradell, the daily La Naciónreported. The three shot their way into 35thplace out of 41 contestants, each hitting368 targets out of 400 at 10 meters. That isone of the best records she has had in hercareer as national sharpshooting champion.“I feel very happy to have participatedin the Olympic Games, where the level isvery high,” she told La Nación whilewatching Iraq crush Costa Rica’s Olympicsoccer team.Judo fighter David Fernández did notmake it past the first round.Readying themselves for their racestoday and tomorrow, mountain bicyclistsJosé Adrián Bonilla and Karen Matamoroshave been riding in the mountains of Spainsince last Saturday.They and taekwondo fighter KristhoperMoitland, who will compete Sunday,together with the soccer team, remainCosta Rica’s Olympic hopefuls.
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