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Friday, May 5, 2000
It hasn't sunk in yet: Olympic qualifier

By RYAN PYETTE -- Winnipeg Sun

 It's been a whirlwind, world-wide, panicky points-grab.

 But Wednesday, it all proved well worth it as Winnipeg badminton star Kara Solmundson learned she and her mixed doubles partner, Mount Pleasant, Ont., native Mike Beres, have qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, this September.

 "It hasn't sunk in yet," said the 25-year-old Solmundson, who's currently competing at nationals in Calgary. "In the last four weeks, we've been to three continents and four countries -- Peru, Chile, Croatia, and New Zealand -- trying to qualify before May 1.

 "It's been crazy, but we did it at the last stop."

 Badminton's Olympic standard says the top-24 in the world by May 1 get the Sydney trip, but in Canada, players have to rate among the top-19, or they don't go.

 Solmundson and Beres were on the bubble all year and as the deadline loomed, they needed to reach the finals in Auckland, New Zealand to at least lock up the No. 19 spot.

 They made it and placed No. 18 in the world at the cut-off date.

 "We were nervous before the semifinal," said Solmundson. "We had to play New Zealand's best team, and they had the crowd on their side, but I think we played our best game of the year and won two straight."

 "Now, we're going to the Olympics, and it's a dream come true."

 NEWSHAMS AWAIT NEWS: Winnipeg's pitching sisters Sandy and Heather Newsham hope their Olympic dreams hold true as Canadian national women's softball team coach Ron Clarke makes two final roster cuts in the next few days.

 All any of the 17 remaining players can do is await their fate after a not-so-great, oh-for-eight performance at the International Softball Cup in Sydney, Australia last week.

 Team pitching, said 26-year-old Sandy, was not the problem.

 "We just couldn't hit, all of us struggled," she said. "We played well defensively, though, against the best in the world.

 "And now, no one knows what will happen.

 "But I do feel good about our chances of making the team."
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