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Friday, August 13, 2004
Four-time world champ elected captain

Associated Press

GEORGIOUPOLIS, Greece -- Three-time Olympic hurdler Allen Johnson has been elected captain of the U.S. track and field team at the Athens Games.

Johnson, 1996 Olympic gold medalist and the only person to win four world championships in the 110-meter hurdles, was elected this week by the 82 athletes on hand at the U.S. pre-Olympic training camp at a seaside resort in Crete.

Johnson, 33, is a favorite to win the gold in his event in Athens. Known for his accessibility and leadership in the sport, he won the Sam Skinner Award this year, which is given by the Track and Field Writers of America for cooperation with the media.

China's close shave
Houston Rockets center Yao Ming says he won't shave for six months if Team China fails to make the quarterfinals of the men's Olympic basketball tournament, the Calgary Sun reported in Friday's editions.

"We have to qualify for the next round, for the quarterfinals," Yao told the newspaper. "If we don't, I won't shave for six months as punishment."

Del Harris, the Dallas Mavericks assistant who coaches the Chinese team, said that Yao and his teammates from China could be a factor in the tournament's late rounds.

"I think we have the potential to achieve something that no Chinese team has ever done before," said Harris, who previously has helped coach Canadian, Puerto Rican and U.S. teams.

China opens against Spain on Sunday.

Accident befalls Polish gymnast
Polish gymnast Joanna Skowronska fell from the uneven bars during training and fractured a cervical vertebra, but did not endure any neurological problems.

She was hurt Thursday and is expected to stay in the hospital until Monday. Doctors said she will wear a neck collar for about two months.

Skowronska finished 65th in the all-around competition at world championships last year.

Bush gives U.S. athletes pep talk

ATHENS, Greece -- Former President Bush told members of the U.S. Olympic team Friday that winning a medal isn't as important as representing their country "with class and dignity."

Bush, who is leading the official American delegation to the games, gave a pre-Olympic pep talk and mingled with the athletes for more than an hour at the team's practice facility.

"You do make your country proud," said Bush, who was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, and their granddaughters, Barbara and Jenna -- the children of the current president.

"Over the next two or three weeks, you're going to stand before the world wearing our nation's flag," Bush said. "It doesn't matter if you, yourself, are the medal winner. What matters is that you represent yourself, your sport and our great country, with class and dignity, come what may."

Venus tips her hat
Venus Williams is giving a whole new meaning to the term "overhead."

The defending Olympic singles tennis champion and budding fashion designer served up a new hat she created for McDonald's employees to wear while serving food during the games.

The oversized, red-twill newsboy cap features abstract designs in black representing various Olympic sports. Each one bears Williams' signature on the inside label.

"My first designs were more like a baseball cap, more like what you see in the McDonald's stores," Williams said. "But then they came back to me and said, 'No, we want you to do something more creative.'"

Creativity has been the trademark for Williams and her sister, Serena, when it comes to their tennis attire. They are nothing short of fashion icons with their sexy, skin-baring styles and meticulously coordinated accessories.

Serena Williams was supposed to appear in Athens alongside her sister, but pulled out of the Olympics this week with a knee injury.

When Venus steps onto the court during the Olympics, she'll be wearing someone else's design: a Diane von Furstenberg ensemble in red, white and blue.

"I have, like, a skirt with a handkerchief hemline and a halter that crosses in the front like a V," Williams said. "It's fun! No one else gets to wear these clothes."

Bush launching ads that tie in to Games
Keying in on the Olympics, President Bush's campaign unveiled a new television ad touting "two more free nations" and "two fewer terrorists regimes" as the summer games begin, part of a $28 million advertising effort for August.

The ad will run during the Olympic games and sports programming on national cable channels. In a first for a presidential campaign, the ad also will air on a TV network of 250 fitness centers in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and eight swing states.

Seeking to bolster his national security credentials, Bush's new ad reminds voters that his administration succeeded in toppling controlling governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ad shows a coliseum during a previous Olympics as it notes the world had 40 democracies in 1972, compared with 120 today.

As a swimmer dives into her race lane, a voice says: "Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise." Then it adds: "With strength, resolve and courage, democracy will triumph over terror. And, hope will defeat hatred."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.