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Friday, June 23, 2000

Sisters aim to take act down under
BRAMPTON -- Sandy and Heather Newsham are about to embark on an incredible journey.

The Winnipeg sisters are on the verge of being named to the Canadian Olympic women's softball team, fulfilling a dream of representing Canada together at a Games.

"It would be amazing," Heather Newsham said yesterday before Team Canada's match against New Zealand at the Three Nations Challenge in Brampton. "We've talked about that a lot over the years."

It almost happened last year for the Pan Am Games, which promised to be an exceptional experience given that the competition was held in their home town. But Heather was a late cut and Sandy was forced to carry the family banner alone.

"I think that was harder on her than me," Heather said. "But it wasn't the Olympics, so we got over it."

With only three pitchers left on the Team Canada roster for Sydney, it's a good bet that they'll both survive the final cuts this weekend. Although remarkably alike in many ways -- they're both kind of shy, both are teachers and both played varsity volleyball at the university level -- the Newshams bring a different dimension to the Canadian team. Heather throws right and Sandy left.

"Sandy's stronger than I am, but I throw harder because I have better mechanics," Heather said. "On the other hand, Sandy has more movement on her pitches."

The nice thing about the sisters is that not only are they teammates, they've managed to remain best friends. And the reason for that, said Heather, is their age difference. At 26, Sandy is four years older, so they haven't played against each other and developed a major rivalry.

If all goes well, and they travel Down Under as part of the strong Team Canada squad, the Newshams plan to hang around Sydney for an extra week or so.

"We want to take in some of the other sports and try to meet Vince Carter," Heather said with a laugh. "I'm sure it will be something we'll remember forever. After all, you eventually lose touch with people you play with, but we'll always be able to talk about our experience together."

OLYMPIC NOTES: Here's an idea that various anti-doping officials have kicked around: Implementing lie-detector tests to athletes who test positive for banned substances. See if their inevitable denials add up ... For the first time in Canadian history, a brother-sister duo won the national amateur boxing championships. Damian Roach of Winnipeg captured the national junior title in the 48-kilogram division while his sister with the perfect boxing name --Stormy -- won the women's 48-kilogram category. At the same competition, in the 54-kilogram class, Winnipeg's Bruce Oake, the son of CBC sports commentator, Scott Oake, won a silver medal ... On the theme of boxers from Winnipeg, Ryan Savage did himself proud at the final Olympic Games qualifying tournament a couple of weeks ago in Buenos Aires. The first-year law student competed as a last-minute replacement for A-team welterweight Jeremy Molitor, who injured his hand before the competition. Savage won his first two bouts to advance to the final (where the winner qualified the weight-class for Sydney) before losing to tough Dominican Yovanny Lorenzo ... The Olympic Order will be bestowed on Canadian figure skating boss David Dore, although who knows whether that's a good thing anymore ... Three-time world singles champion Elvis Stojko of Richmond Hill and Toronto choreographer Sandra Bezic were named to the list of the 25 most influential names in figure skating ... Most interesting photo caption in the recent edition of International Figure Skating magazine: "At the Spring Open, Katarina Witt tells Victor Petrenko she'll be his new dance partner if he tires of his inflatable doll." A very informative journal ... The new breed of speed in Canadian track: Toronto sprinter Pierre Browne, who is ranked first and third respectively in the 200 and 100 metres in Canada (10.24 and 20.49). Browne, who attends Mississippi State University, recently was co-recipient of the SEC conference male outdoor track and field freshman of the year.