This year's team is young and inexperienced and, according to many observers, not as talented as previous U.S. squads. In the past 10 weeks head coach Al Mitchell has put the 12 boxers and the alternates through perhaps the longest training session in history. There were grueling camps in Bend, Ore., Marquette, Mich., and Augusta, Ga.; dual meets against Germany and Russia; and numerous promotional appearances. "Al doesn't like the word burnout" says a team manager, Ken Cox. Yet even Mitchell now admits that the camp may have gone on for "too long."
There have been reports of sniping among the coaches as well as what one assistant called prima donna behavior by several boxers. The team has lost six alternates, who left either for disciplinary reasons or flagging motivation. Reid and Clay-Bey are still there, but it was close. After making the team, both signed the U.S. Olympic Committee's code of conduct, which empowers the USOC to remove athletes who fail to "avoid criminal behavior." Because Clay-Bey's arrest occurred before he made the team, he was not in violation of the code. In the case of Reid, who is accused of throwing a table lamp at his girlfriend in an Orlando hotel and is scheduled to enter a plea of not guilty on July 24, "processing of paperwork" was delayed, according to a USA Boxing spokesperson. That happenstance precluded Reid's being held to the code because his signed agreement was not yet in USOC hands.
Mitchell hopes the embattled atmosphere surrounding his team will translate into a more determined approach when the bell finally rings. As light flyweight Albert Guardado puts it, "The focus has changed. There's less arguing." We'll see in Atlanta.
Planet Free Speech
What a relief that the University of Wisconsin has deflected an attempt by Reebok International to impose a campus gag order on criticism of its products. Last month the school's board of regents approved a five-year, $7.9 million deal that made Reebok the sole provider of athletic equipment in return for the rights to market the Badger logo. The contract included a clause requested by Reebok that the university "not issue any official statement that disparages Reebok" and "promptly take all reasonable steps necessary to address any remark by any university employee, including a coach, that disparages Reebok." Following protests by professors and students, and facing a possible Justice Department investigation, Reebok last Thursday acceded to a university request that the "non-disparagement language" be stricken from the contract.
Scare of His Life
Senior writer Michael Silver reports on a near tragedy in the life of Jerry Rice, who discussed publicly for the first time his wife's recent brush with death.
As one of the most dedicated athletes to wear a football uniform, Jerry Rice always figured he was the master of his fate. The San Francisco 49ers receiver would devote himself to his craft, and the rest of his life would fall into place. That all changed when his wife, Jackie, gave birth to the couple's third child, a daughter named Jada.
Jackie's previous deliveries, of daughter Jaqui, 9, and son Jerry Jr., 4, had gone smoothly. But after giving birth at 2:58 p.m. on May 16 to Jada, who was healthy, Jackie began experiencing complications and required surgery to stop hemorrhaging. "It was supposed to be minor surgery," Jerry says. "They brought her out, and we waited around to see if the bleeding would continue, and it started up again. Then they took her back into surgery from 9 to 11:30 p.m., and that's when I knew it was really serious."
He sent Jackie's mother, Gloria Campbell, back to the couple's home and paced the hospital alone until daybreak, giving his mother-in-law frequent telephone updates. He was never told by doctors how close Jackie was to dying, but he figured it out for himself.
"I could tell by the way the doctors and nurses were frantically running around that it was just really close," Rice says. "I went through a living hell, because I was there every second." In an interview three weeks before the delivery, Rice had talked passionately about his wife as the backbone of the family. "She makes everything go," he had said.