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Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Solmundson perseveres against all odds

By RYAN PYETTE -- Sports columnist

 SYDNEY -- It's a longshot that Winnipeg's badminton Olympian Kara Solmundson will end up on the podium here. And for some strange reason, those odds keep getting longer.

 Last year, the 26-year-old wrecked her knee, but fought back through intense physiotherapy to win bronze in singles at the Pan Am Games.

 Then, earlier this year, she embarked on a frenzied, round-the-world tour to gain enough points to qualify for the Olympics in the singles and mixed doubles.

 She made it.

 But then, Badminton Canada came along and asked her to decide if she would focus on mixed doubles and give up her singles spot so another competitor who fell short of the standard could make the Olympic team.

 Solmundson refused, citing common sense.

 "If my mixed partner (Mike Beres) gets hurt, then I don't get to compete at all," she said.

 Well, in a frustrating bit of irony and some terrible timing, it was Solmundson who went down with an injury only five weeks ago. She jumped up for a scissors-kick return in training, landed wrong, and tore a muscle in her left leg.

 FINAL TUNEUP

 How badly?

 The MRI revealed a huge 10-centimetre rip that put the skids on a training tournament in Malaysia widely regarded as the final, vital tune-up for most of the world's top Olympians.

 "Three days before I was supposed to go, this happens," she said, shaking her head. "When I finally made it down to Sydney, the doctors asked me if I brought my knee brace with me, and I said, 'Hey, that's the least of my worries right now.'

 "Let's work on this leg."

 Thanks to the doctors and quick rehab, she's made huge strides and will play this week.

 "I practised the other day and for the first time, it was pain-free," she happily reported. "Finally, I can just concentrate on playing in the Olympics."

 The stakes are high for Solmundson and her teammates. Not just medals are on the line at these Games. At least one Canadian player or pair must make the round of 16 here, or the national team's funding will be cut.

 "We're all in the village together and everybody's always looking at each other and saying, 'C'mon, let's go, we've got to make it,' " said Solmundson. "Somebody has to make it. We have no choice."
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