July 21, 1996
Stone cold in Hotlanta
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
ATLANTA -- On the second day of the Bubba Games, our sword fighters made like pin-cushions, our swimmers had rocks in their pockets and our gunslingers couldn't hit a 50-gallon barrel at 20 paces.
This was not the way they drew it up in the Team Canada game plan.
When you throw in mediocre performances by our volleyball team and our judokas, it was an all-round dismal day.
But despond ye not. Word is, it'll get better. It has to, because it can't really get much worse than this.
The scorching southern sun hadn't risen above the treetops yesterday morning when things started to go sour for Canada.
Our three fencers -- Jean Marc Chouinard, Dan Nowosielski and James Ransom -- hopped on a bus at about 8:30 for the 15-minute ride to the World Congress Centre in downtown Atlanta, where the men's individual epee competition was scheduled.
Ninety minutes later, our three musketeers arrived. Fortunately -- or perhaps irrelevantly -- Chouinard and Nowosielski had byes in the first round. But Ransom, at 24 making his Olympic debut, had to run off the bus, hop into his fightin' duds and rush on to the floor.
In a matter of minutes, he was toast. Make that Swiss cheese, beaten by a mediocre American slicer and dicer named Michael Marx.
When Chouinard and Nowosielski finally took their turns a little later, they both went quickly and quietly and that was a bit of a shock. Both men were outside contenders for medals. Chouinard, in fact, is highly regarded on the World Cup circuit, but he was dog meat yesterday.
Nowosielski's credentials are only slightly less impressive than Chouinard's, but that didn't matter. Nowosielski led most of the way, but lost to a Cuban on the final touch.
At least when Nowosielski was finished, he had the courage to admit he choked.
The bus fiasco was typical of stories you hear from athletes all over Atlanta. Many of the vehicles were brought in from far-flung outposts of the United States along with the drivers, and the imports can't seem to find their way across the street without getting lost.
In this particular case, the driver was on her way to the International Congress Centre, which is located 20 miles out of the city.
"We were about halfway there," a distraught Ransom said, "when someone wondered out loud if this was the right way. Our bus driver was pretty upset. I thought she was going to cry."
Joanne Malar, Canada's top hope for a swimming medal here, had no such convenient excuse for her elimination from the 400-metre individual medley, her specialty. Actually, she had no excuse at all, since she ran off as soon as she had been eliminated.
The young woman who stares out at you from the front of the Special K box swam four full seconds slower than her personal best of four minutes 43.39 seconds, recorded at the Olympic trials four months ago.
Malar should have known better than to doze through the preliminaries. It's not as if she has no international experience. But she finished ninth in the heats, missing the final by one placing despite being ranked fourth in the world in the event.
She was joined on the sidelines by all three of her swimming teammates, who failed to make it to the finals in their events.
Out at the rifle range George Leary had a dreadful start but recovered to stand 11th after the first of two days in the trap competition. His teammate, Paul Shaw, is a distant 49th.
The women's volleyball team was thrashed soundly by Cuba in straight sets and Nancy Filteau was eliminated from the heavyweight women's judo competition.
If this does not sound like a happy beginning, you're paying attention. Thank goodness our Canadian rowers are getting their oars in the water today to begin -- we hope -- a steady string of good news.