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OLYMPIC REPORT / 43 DAYS TO THE GAMES : French Synchronized Swimmers Ordered to Change Holocaust Routine

Times News Services

Sports minister Guy Drut on Wednesday ordered France’s Olympic synchronized swimming team to drop any references to the Holocaust in its controversial routine.

Set to music from Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” the routine reenacted the arrival of Jewish women in the death camps, the selection by Nazi doctors and their final march to the gas chambers.

The team had planned to perform the four-minute program at the Summer Games.

In a statement, Drut said he ordered the team to remove any “allusions to the tragedy of the Shoah,” which is the Hebrew word for the events that took the lives of six million Jews.

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Wearing black bathing suits, the swimmers were to goose-step in German-military style to the pool before plunging in. The music also included chants sung in Jewish ghettos during the war.

“The routine is ridiculous,” said Henri Hajdenberg, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations. “It’s tactless and in poor taste.”

The team’s technical director defended the program, saying it had “great emotional value.”

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Karolyn Kirby, with the most victories on the women’s beach volleyball professional tour, was eliminated from Olympic consideration when she and partner Lisa Arce, the top-seeded team at the trials at Baltimore, lost for the second time in two days and three matches in the double-elimination format.

Though she wouldn’t place all of the blame for their 15-8 loser’s bracket defeat to the second-seeded team of Liz Masakayan and Angela Rock on Arce’s inexperience, it certainly played a factor. So did the fact that they had played only once together before the trials, at a tournament last week in Texas.

“I took a chance on a rookie, and the roll of the dice didn’t come in,” said Kirby, 35.

Later, Masakayan’s Olympic dream ended when she and Rock lost to Elaine Roque and Dennie Shupryt-Knoop, 15-12.

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In men’s trials, Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes, the top men’s seed, trounced the fifth-seeded team of Scott Ayakatubby and Brian Lewis, 15-2.

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Shannon Miller served notice that she is not over the hill yet with a solid first-place performance in the compulsories of the National Gymnastics Championships in Knoxville, Tenn.

Miller, a five-time Olympic medalist who had not competed since last fall because of injuries, posted a score of 39.350 to lead Dominique Moceanu (39.250) and Jaycie Phelps (39.225).

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The compulsories count for 60% of the points. The optionals are on Friday night and the top 14 competitors will go to the Olympic trials later this month at Boston.

In the men’s competition, four-time national champion John Roethlisberger overcame a slow start to take the lead after the compulsories.

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Erin Hartwell won the men’s 1-kilometer final at the U.S. team cycling trials in Trexlertown, Pa., becoming the first rider to earn an Olympic berth. He set a Lehigh Velodrome record with a time of 1:04.48, almost a second and a half faster than runner-up Jonas Carney. Later, Kent Bostick, 42, upset 1992 world champion Mike McCarthy to win the 4,000-meter individual pursuit and a spot on the team. . . . Michelle Granger pitched a perfect game and Christa Williams threw a one-hitter in Columbus, Ga., as the U.S. Olympic team won both ends of a doubleheader, 4-0 and 5-0, over the New Hampshire-based Thunderbolts in its first game at this summer’s softball venue. . . . Tuning up for its final pre-Olympic tournament, the USA women’s volleyball team beat Germany, 15-10, 9-15, 15-5, 15-3, in Munster, Germany.

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