Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on August 4, 1999 · Page 34
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 34

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Phoenix, Arizona
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Wednesday, August 4, 1999
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( ID e The Arizona Krpuhlic Wdmily, AunuU 4, IW) MSPORTS A feast off success Local triathlete making strides toward stardom o v. r I I Jr " -'Ml T ' ' L J !e irr-j L, y, c JUD (mil ' , Ji Lenny IgnelziAssociated Press Martina Hingis, formerly the No. 1 player in the world, won Tuesday in her first match since she lost in the first round at Wimbledon. Game may have outgrown Hingis Bigger, stronger players dominate By Jim McCurdy Special for The Republic Jane Esahak-Gage wasn't about to go near that reindeer. Absolutely no way. Not a live reindeer nor a Rudolph look-alike, mind you. We're talking cooked. As in the kind being served for dinner along with fermented fish the night before the Long ' Distance World Championships triathlon in Sater, Sweden. So Esahak-Gage did the obvious thing. She and her husbanJ, George, opted for McDonald's. Not exactly standard high-performance training fare, but there was just no way they were eating something completely foreign to them. "I hate to say how boring we were in terms of being adventurous," said George. "It was not optimum nutrition, but at least we didn't get sick." Far from it. By the end of the next day, By Diane Pucin Los Angeles Times CARLSBAD, Calif. Martina Hingis had been run off the court in her last two matches. First by the bigger, stronger, faster Steffi Graf in the final of the French Open, then by the bigger, stronger, faster Jelana Dokic in a stunning first-round upset at Wimbledon. Until beating Chanda Rubin of the United States, 7-5, 6-3, on Jane was wearing a shiny medal. Esahak-Gage, a 37-year-old Ahwatukee resident, won a gold medal for her age group at the international triathlon, which covered a 4K swim, 120K. bike ride and challenging 30K. run over hilly terrain. She finished , fourth overall with a time of 7:06.55. The 1983 Michigan State graduate was the second woman out of the water in 55 minutes. It took her 3:43 to complete the bike segment, and 2:26 to complete the run. After seeing how quickly she came out of the water, George, a top triathlete himself, . was leery about how his wife of 10 years would finish. He even told her to slow down. Forget that. "I was racing it," Jane explained. "I'm thinking, 'I'm going to get on the podium, I've got to keep going.' " That she did. And as it turns out, the couple wound up eating at McDonald's five times while in Sweden. That's rather unusual for elite athletes who mainly stick to leafy greens, low-fat meat and occasional red meat for protein and creatine intake. Regardless, she won a medal. And now her husband is paying for it. "I've been pampering her since then," Peter SchwepkerThe Arizona Republic Jane Esahak-Gage has been working to improve the cycling portion of her training. The Ahwatukee resident recently captured a gold medal in her age in an international triathlon in Sweden. when she decided it was unacceptable to be slow and out of shape. She lost 30 pounds and now can get to many more balls and then whack the cover off them. In real life, Hingis is normal-size, 5-7. In tennis life, she is becoming a midget. And most difficult for Hingis to accept, it seems, is that her place in the tennis world is not the same as it was in 1997. Her place in the tennis world has become normal-sized too? We were reintroduced to Hingis on Monday. The teenager formerly known as the best player in the world was modeling her new Adidas warm-up and shoes and being welcomed by her new sponsor, Adidas, to the stable of Adidas athletes, and the people who run Adidas are so very, very proud to have added Hingis to their family of athletes. Perhaps Adidas can run out a new line of crying towels for the tennis player who weeps in an incontrol-lable fit of pique after a loss, brought on partly because of her own arrogance in refusing to recognize the singular will and athletic ability of her opponent. That's what happened to Hingis at the French Open when she wept in disbelief and anger over her loss to Graf, the player she had dismissed two years ago as over the hill, in the championship match. Two weeks later, Hingis bombed out in the first round of Wimbledon, a 6-2, 6-0 loser to Dokic, the hard-hitting Australian teenager who rumbled into the quarterfinals. After that, Hingis, who played at Wimbledon for the first time in her five-year pro career without her mother at her side, went away. They just keep coming, young and tall, strong and fast. And the game will keep moving, getting faster and stronger and better every day. Hingis will always have 1997 in her mind. That's not enough in 1999. Tuesday in the TIG Classic, it was going on two months since Hingis won a tennis match. While much can be made of her petulance and cockiness, about how embarrassing was her meltdown at the French Open, about her ill-considered comments regarding other players, the truth is that Hingis may be finding out that the game has passed her by. And how can that be said about an 1 8-year-old who is ranked No. 2 in the world? How is it that the player who dominated the sport two years ago, who won three of the four Grand Slams in 1997, who won 37 consecutive matches at one point in 1997, who seemed destined to own the game with her soft hands, light touch and innate court sense, has seemed so lost on the court and unable to handle losing off it? "I really believe that the game has changed so much in those two years," Graf says. "The game has changed with girls who are tall and physical and who have that extra power. That is where the tennis is going, and it is going to be very hard for Martina to keep (up) to that level." The game is changing. Every day. It is belonging more and more to players such as Dokic and Mirjana Lucie, two 6-foot-plus teenagers. It already belongs to the Williams sisters, Venus, 6-2, and her 5-10 sister, Serena. It belongs most of all right now to the 6-2 Lindsay Davenport, who realized how the game was changing two years ago replaced her husband in the competition. "When I met her, I knew she could be a really good triathlete," George said. "She was a really fast swimmer, and I knew some of the top triathletes in Arizona at that time. I told her, 'In about a year, if you wanted to, you could probably be beating them.' " That wasn't all the coaxing she needed, however. Jane still had to get used to the bike. "She was always borrowing everyone else's bicycle," George recalled. "If you're riding for 20 miles or something, everything's sore." Yet she was ready when that first triathlon came, although there's some dispute as to whether George was really sick, or using a ploy to get Jane to try it. "She got a taste of success, and she said, 'Yeah, this is kind of good,' " George said. Eventually, she found a bike that fit her. She is still improving as a cyclist. "That's a big area where you can make up a lot," she said. "The way I look at it is I try to get a big enough lead as I can. Usually, I don't stay out that long." With continued improvement on the bike, her leads may last a little longer. "She's just very dedicated," training partner Sara Kuehner said. "She is always striving to improve herself. She's just very determined to win." Initially, triathlons were a little frightening to her. "The first time I did it, because it was such an unknown, it was scary the distance," she said. "Now, I know I can go the distance, I know my body can do it. When you're having a good race, a lot of times your body doesn't even realize it." But continued improvement could cost her a training partner. "I haven't been running with her lately because she's gotten so good," Kuehner said. "I can't compete with her anymore. She and George are the most dedicated couple, athletic-wise, that I've ever known. Maybe when she's out of shape sometime, I'll get back to training with her." George said. "Extra foot massages and little things." Esahak-Gage, one of six women and three men to win medals for Team USA in Sweden, is now training for her fourth Ironman triathlon to be held in Hawaii this October. She qualified this year at the St. Anthony's triathlon in Tampa. Winning a gold in Sater was more than therapeutic for Esahak-Gage. In fact, it gave her a good indication of where she needs to improve for longer events like the Ironman. "It gave me a real confidence boost," she said. "I'm just really excited that I could come away with that (medal), and whatever else happens, happens." Esahak-Gage's indoctrination to the sport came by mistake. Her husband had gotten sick shortly before a 1994 event he entered. Jane, always reluctant to do triathlons because she wasn't comfortable with the bike, WMLBA Jr. reporter gets 2nd chance Teen teams give Valley double shot at nationals lS on court during interview MERCURY JUNIOR REPORTER Vickie Johnson She scores 16 points to lead the Liberty to victory over the Utah Starzz. 3-pointer lifts Liberty GRACE PORTLEY Special for The Republic girls . who all contribute. It's not an all-star team. The Storm has been building for this by year-round recruiting. It's become a very good rivalry." Paradise Valley's team is made up of girls from Chandler Seton Catholic, Xavier, Shadow Mountain, Paradise Valley, Horizon, Desert Mountain and Tempe Corona del Sol high schools. Horizon's Caitlin Benyi, the Northeast Community Player of the Year as a freshman after walloping nine homers to break the school mark, is one of the Premier's marquee players. As is Corona del Sol sophomore pitcher Becky McDonald, who will have to step in for the departing Mo Woodmansee, a Texas-Arlington signee. Last year, the Premier won the United States Specialty Sports Association Triple Crown World Series. Since Thanksgiving, the team has compiled an 83-12 record. The Storm's top players include Jackie Coburn, a highly regarded catcher at North Canyon who hits for power, Scottsdale Chaparral junior pitcher Katie Witham and Xavier's Lauren Beardsley. The two Valley teams will be matched against some of the finest from the Southern California region.- About 20 teams from that area qualified for the tournament, some by going to tournaments in other areas of the country just to earn a berth in the nationals. "It's very difficult to assess what our chances are," Ross said. "The really neat thing for these girls is the college scholarship opportunities they'll receive. It's very well-attended by college By Jim McCurdy Special for The Republic It would seem only fitting that if one was going, room might as well be made for another. Softball in the Valley is just that good. No matter what level you're talking about. Two area teams recently qualified to compete in the 92-team Amateur Soft-. ball Association Nationals on Aug. 10-15 in Atlanta. The Phoenix Storm, one of the highly regarded summer teams in the Valley had already qualified. Yet when up-and-coming neighboring Paradise Valley Premier jumped into the mix, it was all the more obvious how blessed the Valley is with Softball talent. "We were playing the ASA sanction basically to see how we could do," Premier Coach Greg Ross said. "The girls have progressed really well through Phoenix. That's how we qualified. The city of Phoenix, because of the rigorous schedule that these girls play nine months out of the year, the cream rose to the top. When it comes to the local and Southwest regional tournaments, the experience really comes in handy." ; To be headed to the premier I6-under national tournament says a great deal. Especially for Premier, which is made up of 15-year-old girls who have played together for four years. The Storm is a well-established program consisting of y older players in a program that lures some of the Valley's best talent each year to its summer club. "We basically qualified a year early," Ross said. "It "s been a real special thing for this team. We have about nine or 10 When Grace Portley had her photo taken with her Mercury favorite, Bridget Pettis, before a game July 27, it wasn't her first time on the America West Arena court. The 9-year-old performed at a Mercury game last year after attending the Hip Hop Squad's youth camp, which she is doing again this summer. As The Republic's second junior reporter of the season, Portley interviewed guard Edna Campbell, got an inside look at a team she has followed since its inception and perhaps best of all got to pose at center court with Pettis. The fourth-grader at Desert Cove Elementary School in Phoenix has played basketball since she was 5 and also participates in swimming and Softball, plays the guitar and piano and has a collection of 100 Beanie Babies. Grace has a 14-year-old brother, Robert. Her father, Maurice, is the presiding judge of Maricopa County Juvenile Court. Grace: Do you think the Mercury has found the magic that made last year's season so special? Campbell: I'm hoping we've found the magic. Right now, it's not about magic, it's about getting some wins and doing whatever it takes to win. Hopefully we're able to do that. Grace: Where did you grow up and how did it help you as a person and athlete? Campbell: I grew up between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That didn't really have any influence on how I got involved in sports. I got involved in sports at an early age. I'm thankful for the opportunities I had as a young girl. I started playing basketball when 1 was 14, and from that point on basketball became important to me. Grace: What sports did you play when you were a kid and what was your favorite sport? Campbell: I only played basketball then I ran Associated Press LIBERTY 61, STARZZ 59: At Salt Lake City Crystal Robinson hit a three-pointer with 1:22 left to lift the New York Liberty to victory over the Utah Starzz on Tuesday night. Vickie Johnson scored 16 points for the Liberty, including a free throw with 3.9 seconds left. In the last three seconds, Utah's LaTonya Johnson had a bank shot roll off and two tip attempts came up short The Liberty led, 24-8, with 5:51 left in the first half before the Starzz came back to narrow the gap to 31-21 at the half. Johnson scored 1 1 points during the first half. During the second half, the Starzz took one-point leads three times. Adrienne Goodson and Korie Hlede each scored 12 points for the Starzz. track. Out of those two, basketball became my favorite, obviously. Grace: Do you have any brothers or sisters and did they help you with your sports when you were a kid? Campbell: I have two brothers and one sister, and I'm the oldest. Only one of my brothers played basketball, so they weren't that influential. Grace: Who was your role model when you were a kid? Campbell: I really can't say that I've had one. I was influenced by my mother and my grandmother, but I really can't say I had a strong role model. Grace: What do you like to do in your free time, and what sport do you like to watch for , fun? Campbell: I like to read and listen to my music. I hardly ever watch any sports, but if anything, I'd have to say men's college

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