Ageless Akers named to Olympic Team

Friday, August 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – It was close for a while, but Michelle Akers will be back for another Olympic Games.

Akers and 14 other players from last year's World Cup champions were named Thursday to the team that will represent the United States next month in Sydney.

"Actually I didn't think I was going to make it this year," said Akers, who underwent shoulder surgery in April. "There were many times I thought, 'There's too many obstacles, too exhausting, too much pain.' Every time I hit the wall, something was there to help me over it.''

Akers, 34, is the oldest member of the 18-player squad. Two other players recovering from injury, Carla Overbeck of Richardson and Briana Scurry, also made the cut.

As expected, five players from the World Cup team were not included. Tisha Venturini, Danielle Fotopoulos, Tiffany Roberts, Tracy Ducar and Saskia Webber, have not been a part of the team since coach April Heinrichs took over early this year.

Gymnast withdraws

Jaycie Phelps' knees gave out a month too soon.

With the Sydney Games only a month away, the second-youngest member of the Magnificent Seven announced Thursday she was withdrawing from next week's U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials because of chronic knee problems.

"We knew it was a long shot and it's too bad the cards fell this way for us, but at least we tried," said her coach, Geoff Eaton. "It's much better to try and know than not [try] at all and always wonder."

Four other members of the Mag Seven, the first American women's team to win Olympic gold, are expected to compete next week.

Walker receives waiver

Yueling Chen, a 1992 Olympic champion race-walker for China, will be able to compete for the United States at the Sydney Games after all.

Chinese officials who had refused to grant her permission to race in Australia for her new country abruptly reversed their decision Thursday, following a request from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"I always knew that once the Chinese Olympic Committee understood my situation clearly that they would change their minds," Chen said. "I always felt they would agree. They just did not understand the rules."

Chen said she had maintained her regular training schedule since being informed earlier this month that Chinese authorities had blocked her path to Sydney.

Last month, Chen finished second in the 20-kilometer walk at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., conditionally qualifying her for the games in September.

Then she hit a roadblock in the rulebook.

An athlete who has competed in the Olympics for one country must wait three years to compete for another after gaining new citizenship. Chen became an American citizen April 12.

However, the rule can be waived, as China had done in April for three other American Olympians.