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Sunday, September 24, 2000

Rough week for 'Tobans

 SYDNEY -- The locals like to call this place the friendliest city on Earth.

 You might get an argument from the Manitobans.

 With Week 1 of the Sydney Olympics in the books, the Bison has struggled to reach the podium.

 More often than not, it's been a quick G'day, and a quicker G'bye for the prairie province during these Games.

 There's been plenty of hopes that haven't panned out.

 Track cyclist Tanya Dubnicoff wasn't third time lucky on the velodrome. It was a shock to see her swept two straight in the quarter-finals to finish out of the medals for the third straight Olympic Games.

 Rower Emma Robinson, the three-time world champ, and her coxless pairs partner Theresa Luke, couldn't get their stroke in sync quick enough to complete their careers with an Olympic pairs medal. However they did earn bronze today in Sydney with the women's eights.

 There were expectations that swimmer Kelly Stefanyshyn could deliver a podium performance, but it seemed every Canadian in the pool was struggling just to qualify for finals.

 Stefanyshyn did make the final in the 200-metre backstroke, but finished eighth.

 "It was a real learning experience," said the 18-year-old. "I think I swam too hard early on in the meet, and it was a real struggle after that.

 "I still believe I have the ability to go faster, to improve my times, and to have better results next time around.

 "But this was a really fast meet. It wasn't a surprise to see the Americans and the Australians dominate."

 The women's softball team, including Winnipeg sisters and pitchers Heather and Sandy Newsham, never got on track with poor hitting and a streak of bad luck you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

 The frustrated squad finished 1-6 and left Sydney with more question marks than it came with.

 It's been bleak for the Bison, but it's not over yet.

 Basketball big guy Todd MacCulloch and the Canadian men's hoops team continue their surprising run. They have already clinched a berth in the quarter-finals.

 Road cyclist Clara Hughes is set to ride the road race and the individual time trial this week where she is the defending bronze medallist in both from Atlanta. The Winnipegger is expected to place in the top 10, but she is a definite medal longshot this time around.

 Landmark's Dominique Bosshart, who's ready to take on the world in taekwondo's 67-kg.-and-over class, remains Manitoba's best shot for gold.

 She competes all day on Sept. 30, the second-last day of the Games.

 At the beginning of the month, it was not inconceivable to expect four medals from Manitoba.

 Now, two would be a relief.

 If it's true that misery loves company, then Manitoba isn't alone in their disappointment. The province's performance is merely a microcosm of what's happening right across Canada.

 There's a lot of athletes wearing red-and-white doing a lot of shoulder-shrugging and mirror-looking right now.

 Right from the track team across to table tennis.

 FRIENDLY CITY?

 Winnipeg skeet shooter Jason Caswell's dad Dale had his borrowed car burglarized here in Sydney on Saturday.

 The elder Caswell left the vehicle in the city.

 "He lost some real valuables," said skeet coach Marcel Dubois.

 "He lost some money and his laptop computer. It's a terrible thing."

 Certainly, the thief didn't know his target.

 Why on earth would he go after the father of a guy who's a world-class target shooter?

 Caswell just missed a shoot-off for the finals on Saturday and left for home today.