WORLD SPORTS SCENE : Dawes Will Pass Up the World to Heal, Get Ready for Olympics

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dominique Dawes, who persevered through two competitions with wrist and ankle injuries to earn a berth on the U.S. team for gymnastics' World Championships, will not be in Sabae, Japan, when the world meet begins Monday.

Dawes' coach, Kelli Hill, and USA Gymnastics have decided it will be in Dawes' best interest to begin rehabilitating now from her injuries, said Kathy Kelly, women's program director.

"Kelli told me she didn't know if Dominique could give us eight events," Kelly said. "Dominique was pushing hard and hoping for the injuries not to be a factor, but we talked to her about the long term. She has 1996 to look forward to. If she wasn't at full strength, it is in everybody's best interest if she doesn't compete. Obviously, she is disappointed."

Alternate Mary Beth Arnold will take Dawes' place. Jaycie Phelps, who made the team but was recovering from a knee injury, is expected to compete.

Dawes' absence is not the only blow to the U.S. women. Because of a bad draw, the Americans, women and men, compete on the first day of the three-day compulsory exercise portion of the meet.

The Romanian women drew the second day, the Russians the final day. Because judges usually reserve their top scores for later in the competition, the Americans will have to score high and hope the numbers stand up through the next two days.

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Quote of the Week: British women's fencing captain Fiona McIntosh on weather conditions expected during the 1996 Summer Olympics at Atlanta:

"The city itself is fine, but it is utterly revolting to train and compete in. I have never been in such an environment. It hits you just stepping out the door. Even competing in air-conditioned halls leaves you dehydrated. It will be particularly severe for long-distance athletes. Barcelona was bad enough. This will be hell."

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Of U.S. Swimming's announcement last week that it will pay its athletes $50,000 for each gold medal they win at Atlanta, Shaun Jordan, the athlete representative to U.S. Swimming's board of directors, said:

"It will help our athletes feel good about themselves, to feel a sense of professionalism that you get when you get paid for what you do in swimming as opposed to tending bar."

U.S. Swimming also will reward silver and bronze medalists with as yet undetermined amounts. U.S. athletes will earn $15,000 bonuses from the U.S. Olympic Committee for their first gold medal at Atlanta.

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Germany's Franziska Van Almsick, expected to be one of the stars of the Atlanta Olympics, said she would consider taking legal action against FINA, the international governing body for swimming, if she loses to a suspected drug user in Atlanta.

She is concerned that swimming officials are not doing enough to monitor suspected drug use in China.

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The U.S. men's water polo team showed marked improvement last week at the World Cup in Atlanta by finishing fourth. The team was sixth at the World Championships in Rome last year.

"Two years ago, we were not in position to medal [in 1996]," Coach Rich Corso said. "Now we're in position."

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With eight Olympians on the roster, the U.S. women's volleyball team enjoyed one of the best runs in its history. During a five-week stretch that ended last week, the Americans were 14-1 against the world's best eight teams.

The highlight was the women winning their first gold medal at the World Cup in China. Coach Terry Liskevych, in his 11th and next-to-last year with the national program, said the best play was turned in against China in Beijing and Shanghai. The Americans scored two strong victories before large, partisan crowds.

"That shows the maturity of this group," Liskevych said. "We made a statement."

Tara Cross Battle of Long Beach was named most valuable player of the World Cup and Elena Oden of Irvine was named best spiker.

Times staff writers Maryann Hudson and Elliott Almond contributed to this report.

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