Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Congratulations to our local Olympians


Thirteen athletes - 12 plus an alternate - from Greater Cincinnati will have to brush up on their Greek as they make their way to this year's summer Olympic games. Competing in eight sports, these homegrown talents will be representing their country in their pursuit of Olympic gold. We wish them kalh tuch, Greek for "good luck."

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This region has a tradition of strong swimming programs; the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club has been quietly competing on a national level for years; and Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy owner and founder Mary Lee Tracy was assistant coach of the 1996 U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics team.

Local athletes qualified in those three sports as well as shooting, soccer, synchronized swimming, archery and boxing. They've dedicated incalculable hours to their sports. They've sweated buckets and broken bones. When the games open Aug. 13, we will be cheering them on as they compete in Athens with others from around the world.

Seven Hills Junior High graduate Mohini Bhardwaj trained and competed for 12 years before being named to this year's women's gymnastic team. At 25, the age when gymnasts are considered has-beens, she is the nation's second-oldest female Olympic gymnast since 1964.

Soccer player and St. Ursula Academy graduate Heather Mitts was devastated because she couldn't play in the 2003 World Cup because of a broken leg. But this year she bounced back and was one of 18 women chosen to play for the U.S. Olympic women's soccer team. "I've been dreaming about this since I was a little girl," Mitts said.

Without the support of a proud city, least of all a proud family, dreams can crumble. Cincinnati always has had a great love for its athletes, whether it's cheering on Ken Griffey Jr. to hit his 500th home run, or staying faithful to the Bengals despite atrocious seasons.

Greater Cincinnati needs to shift its attentions and enthusiasm to its Olympians; they've paid in sweat and tears so that they can compete with the best of the world.

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