They were all there -- from the 27-year-old bureaucrat/wrestler to the visiting Belgian korfball team. But the Capital Games generated the most smiles from the younger competitors, who vied for gold medals in Washington's own mini-Olympics.
The Capital Games got into full swing yesterday. At playing fields, tracks and American University's Bender Arena, several hundred athletes competed in a dozen sports. The six-year-old Capital Games are the District of Columbia's "state games." The competition, however, generated entries from all over the Mid-Atlantic region.
In one corner of Bender Arena, the Capital Games commenced as a group of wrestlers from Wilmington, Del., took home the majority of the medals in the freestyle event. Many athletes echoed 19-year-old Chris Gibbs' feelings about the games. "I wanted competition," he said. "This meet gave me a chance and some courage for next time." He won the 150-pound weight class.
At 27, Washingtonian Scott Minos was the oldest of the participating wrestlers. But older didn't necessarily mean slower or weaker. The Department of Energy employee won two matches in the round-robin format and one-upped his younger competitors in earning first-place in 135-lb. division.
The diversity of the Capital Games didn't stop at age differential. A Soviet emigre, Alex Leiderman, officiated the wrestling. He was an elite coach in the Soviet Union before coming to the United States 18 months ago.
Plus, five types of martial arts were on display and the Belgium korfball team showed those in attendance the difference between American basketball and this hybrid version.
At Einstein High School the most lively events of the Capital Games occurred. With over 200 spectators in the stands, area track and field athletes strutted their stuff. Michele Edwards was one of them.
Edwards, 17, never looked back in winning the girls' 800-meter run in 2:23.5. The Central High runner built a 50-yard lead that she refused to relinquish. "It was so hot today and there were so many girls in the race," she said. "I wanted to run the first lap relaxed. Then, on the second lap I ran as fast as I could until I saw the finish line."
Tifaqur Oliver, 17, motioned toward the sun in evaluating his 800 victory as well. The District high school student said that his time of 2:02.3 wasn't near his best. Not even the aerobics classes he teaches twice a week could provide the necessary endurance. "I sat on the infield too long," he said. "It drained my energy."
The steamy weather didn't stop Angel Chinn, 6, of Seat Pleasant. She beat half of the boys' 8-and-under field in her half-mile heat. Other open event winners included Ann Bathers Field of Eastern Branch track club in the girls' triple jump (33 feet 3 inches) and Shante Williams of Glenarden track club in the boys' (43-8). Stephanie Love of Central finished first in the 400 hurdles in 1:05.8 as did Anthony Battle (Glenarden) in 55.5.
In the fencing competition, three local athletes won events: Christopher Calabria of Washington (men's foil), Craig Galt of Alexandria (men's epee) and Gaithersburg's Helen Rovell (women's epee). Barbara King, 16, of McLean took home MVP honors from the field hockey finals. She scored two goals.
Competition will resume today at Bender Arena at 9 a.m.