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WORLD SPORTS SCENE : U.S. Volleyball Team Shows Lack of Depth

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.S. women’s volleyball team looked like the world’s best after a 17-match winning streak that climaxed with the Grand Prix tournament championship in China in September. But that might have been an illusion.

Even though the team won its third consecutive game in the 12-team World Cup on Sunday in Japan by beating Egypt, its lack of depth was exposed in the opening days of the tournament.

Amid a schedule calling for 11 matches in 14 days, the United States lost its first four after starting outside hitter Teee Williams of Long Beach and two-time Olympian Paula Weishoff of Torrance, were injured. Williams broke a toe at a Halloween party before the trip. Weishoff suffered a knee injury during a pre-tournament practice and might need surgery.

One of the replacements, Kristin Klein of Pacific Palisades, was declared ineligible because she was not on the official roster. The team also misses Kristin Folkl, who returned to Stanford to play for the Cardinal. She will rejoin the team after the season.

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“It’s been a struggle,” Coach Terry Liskevych said last week from Fukui, Japan. “I thought we were deep enough. I’ve been proven wrong here.”

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If U.S. Swimming does not reverse a decision that allows Jessica Foschi to continue competing despite testing positive for an anabolic steroid, look for FINA, the sport’s international governing body, to intervene.

U.S. Swimming’s review board created a controversy when it voted 2-1 to place Foschi, a 15-year-old from Old Brookville, N.Y., on probation instead of suspending her for two years because it believed that she was unaware of the banned substance’s presence in her system. Her father speculates that her drink on the day she tested positive last summer at Pasadena was sabotaged. U.S. Swimming has criticized its own review board’s decision, announcing plans to appeal.

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Gunnar Werner, FINA secretary, said the probation is “contrary to the FINA interpretation of the rules. . . . If there will be no change of the U.S. decision, then we have to open the case at FINA.”

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Romania’s Alexandra Marinescu and Belarus’ Svetlana Boguinskaya are among 36 gymnasts scheduled to compete at an Olympic test event Thursday and Friday in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

Representing the United States will be Katie Teft, Mohini Bhard waj , Jair Lynch, Kip Simons, Blain Wilson and Mihai Bagiu.

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National champion Dominique Moceanu, who finished fifth at the world championships, withdrew after a kidney infection and cold sidelined her for several days. She is upgrading her routines to the highest international standard, Coach Bela Karolyi said.

“Most important from the world championships was what kind of appeal Dominique had to the public,” Karolyi said.

“The Japanese are not the most excited in cheering for the athletes--they are quiet and very respectful. But how they went after Dominique. She was the darling of the crowd. If she can excite the Japanese, how much more will she do here next summer in Atlanta?”

World Scene Notes

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Track & Field News named Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie as male athlete of the year in a close vote over British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and American 200- and 400-meter runner Michael Johnson. Gebrselassie, 22, set world records at 5,000 and 10,000 meters and was unbeaten in nine finals between two miles and 10,000 meters. . . . The United Nations set a record last week when 161 countries backed a resolution calling for a truce during next summer’s Olympics. The previous record was set in 1990, when 158 nations voted for the admission of Namibia into the UN. . . . The U.S. men’s volleyball team opens play in the World Cup in Japan next Sunday. . . . In three victories over college teams, the best player for the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team has been former USC star Lisa Leslie, who averaged 19 points. . . . Lawrence Clay-bey of Hartford, Conn., who returned to boxing two years ago as a means of losing weight, became one of two U.S. world champions last month in the World Championships Challenge at Macon, Ga. Clay-bey, a 29-year-old father of two, upset reigning world champion super heavyweight Alexi Lezin of Russia. The other U.S. winner was light heavyweight Antonio Tarver of Orlando, Fla., who defeated Cuba’s Diosvany Vega.

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


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