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Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Hawaii's Olympians  The Road to Sydney

Interviews keeping
Villoria busy

By Pat Bigold

Waipahu light flyweight boxer Brian Viloria is working hard just to focus on the business at hand in Sydney.

Viloria, everybody's favorite for the gold in his division, said he has had "a tremendous number of interviews" since arriving at Olympic Village.

This morning, he had to get up at dawn to get ready for an interview with network sportscaster Pat O'Brien.

But he said he's not looking at the media attention he gets.

"Everyone tells me about it but I'm trying to stay focused on what I have to do here," he said. "It's not the time to pick up a newspaper yet and read. Maybe when it's all over I'll look back."

His next step toward the gold would be to defeat France's Brahim Asloum.

"We fought in the world championships (quarterfinals) last year in a tie-breaker," said Viloria, speaking from his family's hotel room in Sydney.

"So, I expect a tough fight. We've been watching tapes over and over on him, the coaches and I. He has a real tough defense."

Viloria takes a 45-minute bus ride every day from the village to visit his family.

Asloum, like Russian Sergei Kazakov, is 5-foot-5, two inches taller than Viloria.

He said he might have "eased up a little more than I should have" in the last two rounds against Kazakov, when the Russian outpointed Viloria, 5-2.

"I got a little passive on my defense," he said. "I should have come out as aggressive as I usually do. I noticed he was getting real physical in the middle, and I didn't want to be too careless and open up any shots for him."

Viloria finished with an 8-6 decision in the first round match.

Viloria said he has been having a good time posing for photos with a variety of athletes at the village.

He and Jason Kidd had their pictures taken together because they have something in common.

They were both painted in gold for full-page photos in Sports Illustrated's Olympic issue.

He said he has also posed with Marion Jones, Mia Hamm, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Gary Payton and Michael Chang, among others.

Payton knew who Viloria was and said, "I saw you in SI."

Among the Hawaii athletes Viloria has chatted with are Amy Tong (judo), Robyn Ah Mow (volleyball), Mike Lambert (volleyball), and Kelsey Nakanelua (track for American Samoa).

Kayaker Kathy Colin said Kidd introduced himself to her while he and other athletes were in a holding area the night of opening ceremonies.

"I had to ask him what sport he played," she confessed in an e-mail. "Oops."

She also met volleyball player Mike Lambert that night. He was in her homeroom at Punahou.

Colin, who will compete in both the K-1 and K-2 (with Tamara Jenkins) next week on Lake Penrith, said she is getting anxious.

"I am watching a lot of the competitions on TV and getting really excited," she emailed. "I hope to go out and make a miracle."

Hawaii athletes staying at the Olympic Village report they're comfortable, well-fed and getting plenty of rest.

They also say the weather has been good this week.

"There are two dining halls, one at each side of the village, or you can eat at McDonald's, which everyone takes advantage of," said Sean Kern, a water polo utility player who graduated from Punahou.

"You can get a free massage. They also have a live feed for us from all the venues. We're watching men's basketball right now."

Kern said he's in a five-bedroom residence and shares a room with Tony Azevedo, the team's 18-year-old phenom, and backup goalie Sean Nolan, 28.

"There's a really weird type of kitchen which is basically like a sink and a microwave and that's all," he said.

The men's water polo team opens play on Friday.

Tong, who has a full page photo in the latest issue of Seventeen magazine, will open competition in the 78-kilogram division tomorrow against either (1999 World Bronze Medalist) Diadenis Luna of Cuba or Kim Ribble of Canada, a personal friend.

"I've lost to both of them before," she said, noting she is an outside shot. Japan, Cuba, China and France are the favorites in the competition which begins and ends the same day.

Chances are Tong will face the Cuban and she knows how she will have to deal with Luna.

"She's physically strong when she fights opponents and won't let them get their grip, so I have to make sure I go all the way with my attack," said Tong.

Tong said she is sharing a house with the U.S. women fencers and has only one roommate, 70-kilogram judoka Sandy Bacher.

"The village has been quiet," she said, noting that she has plenty of rest.

She said she has made a lot of friends, including Viloria. Tong watched Viloria beat Russian Sergei Kazakov on Saturday.

"He's such a cool guy, and I run into him all the time," said Tong.

Tong said she met swimmers Brooke Bennett (gold in 400-meter freestyle) and Ed Moses (silver in 100-meter breast stroke) and got to touch their medals.

"They were like, 'We don't want to take them off,' " said Tong. "They went through the village metal detector and set it off because they wouldn't take them off their necks. So the security person had to use the wand on them."

Kailua's John Myrdal was to open competition in the laser class dinghy today on Sydney Harbour.

Myrdal, who finished right behind 1996 gold and silver medalists Robert Scheidt of Brazil and Ben Ainsley of England in a 1998 race, has to be thought of as a medal contender.

Myrdal said that maneuvering the 13.5-foot craft by leaning his 6-foot-4 frame over the edge in a race is "like an endless situp."

Sydney 2000 Olympics

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