Becker, a 29-year-old Frenchman, was a gold medalist in ballet freestyle skiing, a demonstration sport at the 1992 Winter Games. Now his life is a circus. Becker is a talent scout for the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, a hip, hyperathletic blend of circus arts and street entertainment that debuted in 1984 and has grown to comprise seven distinct shows that can be seen in North America, the Far East, Europe and Australia. Sixteen former Olympians from 10 countries are among Cirque's 500 performers.
Becker returned from the Sydney Games with 20 hours of videotape of diving, gymnastics, trampoline and synchronized swimming. By then P.J. Bogart and Tracy Bonner, divers recruited by Becker after they missed Olympic berths at the U.S. trials in June, were in Montreal training to join "0" Cirque's Las Vegas water show that premiered in 1998. The opening act begins with several sets of feet sticking out of the water, including those of Suzannah Bianco, Becky Dyroen-Lancer and Jill Smith, all of whom won gold medals on the U.S. synchro team at the '96 Summer Games.
Smith had never heard of Cirque when, in 1997, her sister, Jennifer, dragged her to see the company's show Myst�re in San Francisco. Within months Jill had coaxed her husband, Jason, to move to Las Vegas so she could join the show. "When you're into it, you can feel everything inside," she says. "I want to hang on to that as long as I can."
Says Sylvie Fr�chette, a Canadian synchro swimmer who won a gold medal in 1992 and now choreographs for "O", "Even when you are finished with competing, it doesn't mean you are finished creating."
Paralympics Test Positive
Last Friday, on the third day of the 2000 Paralympics, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch held a press conference in Sydney's Olympic Stadium with Robert Steadward, the Canadian who heads the International Paralympic Committee, to announce a "memorandum of understanding" that made Stead-ward a full IOC member and paved the way for a unified governing body for the Olympics and the Paralympics. Alas, the most newsworthy link between the two Games that emerged from the first week of the Paralympics was word that six powerlifters tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Four of the athletes received four-year suspensions after hearings last Saturday. The other two faced hearings on Sunday....
A happier example of performance-enhancing: Lornah Kiplagat of Kenya, women's runner-up in Sunday's Chicago Marathon, has put up $200,000 and secured a contribution from her sponsor, Saucony, to establish a training camp for Kenyan women runners. Kiplagat intends for the camp, based in Iten, Kenya, to help more than two dozen women not only with their running but also with job skills and self-sufficiency. "If they don't succeed at running," says Kiplagat, "they'll still learn something."
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