Originally created 01/24/04

Women wrestlers excited about first Olympic test



ANO LIOSSIA, Greece -- Even though the heating system in the main competition area was not working, women wrestlers were thrilled to make Olympic history Friday.

The wrestlers are taking part in a three-day test event for the Athens Games, competing in the venue where their sport will be introduced at the Olympics for the first time.

"Naturally, I think it's awesome seeing as I am a woman and a wrestler," said Canadian Lyndsay Belisle, who competes in the 105.6-pound division. "It's sort of like making history."

There is no guarantee the sport will stay in Olympic competition at the 2008 Games in Beijing because the International Olympic Committee is under pressure to reduce the number of sports.

The test is being closely watched.

"To know that I'm going to be going and representing my entire country and the whole effort of all of the athletes, that does make me a little awe-struck," American Sara McMann said.

Many athletes complained about the freezing temperatures outside the venue, which is located about 12 miles north of central Athens, in the middle a run-down area known to most Athenians for its giant landfill and dump scavengers.

The silver disc-shaped venue seats 9,300 people. It was built near the fault line of a 1999 earthquake that killed 143 people.

"The venue itself is very nice aesthetically," American Patricia Miranda said. "It's a little cold right now, but I am sure it won't be in the summer."

U.S. coach Terry Steiner called the venue "spectacular."

"I think they looked at the athletes and teams and what they really wanted and needed for a peak performance," Steiner said of the locker rooms, which include beds.