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U.S. Rowing Women Fall Short Of Gold

By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, July 28, 1996 3:26 pm EDT

GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- The U.S. women's eight trained for nearly four years to build the strength needed to win Olympic gold. When the crew looked for that extra gear Sunday, they couldn't find it.

Romania, which finished behind the United States at last year's world championships, stroked hard for an early lead and never trailed in winning the gold medal on the final day of rowing competition. The U.S. crew finished fourth.

The Netherlands won the men's eight gold medal by half a boat length, and team members celebrated by jumping from the stands into Lake Lanier and swimming to the boat. The Dutch finished with six medals.

Australia also wrapped up the eight-day Olympic regatta with six medals, including two gold after landing 10 boats in the final. The United States finished with three silver and a bronze.

Crew members were silent as they headed back to the dock, and Catriona Fallon of Burlingame, Calif., said they didn't know what to say to each other.

``I was just surprised we weren't faster,'' she said after watching the women's eight medal ceremony from an interview tent.

``I'm sorry we couldn't pull it all together because I think these girls deserved to win a gold medal. I'm sure we'll be feeling a sense of loss the next few months.''

U.S. coach Hartmut Buschbacher said he didn't know exactly what happened to a crew he trained for as many as six hours a day, six days a week for the past 3 1/2 years. No one was injured.

The crew heavily favored to win the first U.S. women's gold in a boycott-free games tried to sprint too early and finished without any medal at all as Canada and Belarus kept them out of the medals with strong finishes.

The U.S. crew was fourth through the first 500 meters before pulling into third halfway through. They tried sprinting with 600 meters left but ran out of room.

``I think we just felt it was slipping,'' Buschbacher said. ``There was nothing we were able to do and let it slip even more. ... We were actually in a worse place you can even think about, not being a medal.''

The American crew had been confident that it was the strongest crew here thanks to its training. But Buschbacher, who coached the German women's eight to gold in 1988, denied that they were guilty of being overconfident.

``They didn't race for six months, seven months and won at Lucerne, very impressive. We knew it would be difficult play in the Olympics,'' he said.

Teresa Z. Bell, of Washington Crossing, N.J., and Lindsay Burns, of Big Timber, Mont., and the American men's quadruple sculls provided two of the U.S. team's silver medals Sunday. The U.S. men's lightweight coxless four picked up a bronze.

Bell and Burns took the silver medal in the first women's lightweight event in the Olympics behind Romania.

``We clearly had a home country advantage with the crowd,'' Burns said. ``It hasn't really set in yet. Not many people have Olympic medals, and we're glad to be among them.''

Germany picked up two golds with its men's and women's quadruple sculls crews. Switzerland finished with two gold medals as brothers Michael and Markus Gier easily won the first Olympic gold in a lightweight event in the double sculls.

© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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