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Only two women advance to Athens

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Cheryl Haworth and Tara Cunningham will
again represent the United States in Olympic women's weightlifting.
The challenge now is to do in Athens what they did in Sydney -- win medals.

Men's super heavyweight Shane Hamman has a different agenda; get
the medal he wasn't yet ready to win in 2000.

Haworth, the super heavyweight who took home a bronze medal from
Sydney at age 17, and Cunningham, a returning gold medalist at 105½
pounds, easily secured their spots for the Athens Games during
Saturday's U.S. Olympic trials.

Hamman, 185-pounder Oscar Chaplin III, and 170-pounder Chad
Vaughn qualified for the men's team by holding onto the rankings
they brought into the trials.

Each lifter's U.S. team ranking was based on a percentage
comparing the total amount each lifted to the world-qualifying
standard in his or her weight class in a series of competitions,
not just the trials. Haworth and Cunningham were easily ahead
before increasing their totals Saturday, Haworth to 110.01 percent,
Cunningham to 109.23 percent.

Hamman's 903¾ pounds were less than the 920¼ that he lifted at
the 2000 trials, when he jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 with a series
of big lifts to make it to Sydney. Chaplin, also a 2000 Olympian,
held second place despite completing only one of four lifts before
withdrawing with knee tendinitis.

Vaughn, from Rowlett, Texas, held onto the final men's slot when
fourth ranked Pete Kelley injured a hamstring on his first attempt
in the clean and jerk, in which the bar is raised first to the
chest and then overhead. Before getting hurt, Kelley set an
American weight-class record of 380¼ pounds in the snatch, in which
the bar is raised above the head without stopping.

Even before getting hurt, the 230-pound Kelley attempted a
473¾-pound clean and jerk that would have put him on the team, but
couldn't raise the bar past his knees before grabbing his hamstring
in pain and limping off the stage.

``I think I tore it pretty bad, but I had to try it. What else
was there to do?'' said Kelley, a 1996 Olympian who was cheered by
a hometown crowd of about 1,000. ``You've got to go for the
Olympics.''

Hamman, who holds every U.S. record, probably must raise 50
pounds more than he ever has to medal in Athens.

``I'm confident about lifting well,'' said Hamman, who was 10th
in Sydney. ``I know what to expect now, and I know what I have to
do now to get a medal.''

Haworth put up 270 pounds in the snatch and 330.7 pounds in the
clean and jerk for a total of 600.7 pounds -- more than the 573 she
lifted at the 2000 trials. She might have been tempted to do more,
but she already had first place wrapped up.

No one else was within seven percentage points, even though No.
3 Cara Heads, a 165-pounder from Costa Mesa, Calif., enjoyed the
best meet of her career by lifting 507 pounds.

"I was just trying to keep the No. 1 spot, that was my goal,
but Tara was keeping me nervous," said Haworth, who is from
Savannah, Ga. "She was stressing me out. Now, I've got a
tremendous amount of work ahead. I definitely have a long way to go
for Athens."

Haworth is probably glad she didn't need to challenge her own
American records of 281 pounds in the snatch, 352½ pounds in the
clean and jerk and 628 pounds total. She tore two left-elbow
ligaments last June, sidelining her for 10 months, and still has
occasional bouts of pain in the elbow.

"I just have to be careful and not do anything crazy," she
said.

Cunningham, who now lives in Mount Pleasant, Mich., finished at
391.2 pounds, down from the 407.7 she lifted at the 2000 trials in
suburban New Orleans. Then, she set three U.S. records and made all
six lifts -- a 6-for-6 performance that is weightlifting's
equivalent of hitting for the cycle.

With Cunningham's spot all but assured before Saturday, it wasn't
necessary for her to duplicate a performance she credits
with giving her the confidence she needed to become the first
American weightlifting gold medalist in 40 years.

"I know what I need to work on to be at a high level [for
Athens]," she said. "My clean and jerk [214 pounds] won't cut it
there. I need to be doing a lot more in three months."

Cunningham, known then as Tara Nott, initially won the silver at
105½ pounds in Sydney but traded it for a gold three days later
when Bulgaria's Izabela Dragneva failed a drug test.

Now, Cunningham will celebrate her 32nd birthday Monday while
spending a few days helping husband Casey Cunningham get ready for
his own trials. A coach at Central Michigan University, he will
compete in the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials beginning May 21 in
Indianapolis.

"I'll be so much more nervous then, sitting in the stands,
everything totally out of my control," she said. "It will be gut
wrenching."

Unlike four years ago, when four U.S. women weightlifters made
the Olympics, only Haworth and Cunningham advanced this time.
Haworth was injured and did not lift in last year's world
championships in Vancouver, costing the United States valuable
points in the team standings that determined each country's
qualifiers for 2004 Olympics.

Among those left off was Heads, a seventh-place finisher in
Sydney. She went to arbitration against USA Weightlifting last
weekend, arguing that the qualifying procedure was arbitrary, but
lost her case. Had she won, the U.S. team likely would have been
determined only by Saturday's results.