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Athens 2004

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August 24, 2004 12:59 pm

Olympic spirit, Charles Barkley style

By BOB YOUNG

The Arizona Republic

When the U.S. men took out some frustration on Angola in their final preliminary round basketball game in Athens on Monday, it brought to mind a golden moment in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

That was when Charles Barkley, in the first Olympic game played with NBA stars, drilled a frail-looking Angolan forward named Herlander Coimbra right in the chest with an elbow.

Barkley later cracked, "Well, he might have pulled a spear on me." And then: "Somebody hits me, I'm going to hit him back - even if it does look like he hasn't eaten in awhile."

Of course, some didn't get Barkley's edgy sense of humor. But what set that original Dream Team apart from the rest is that, despite the great collection of talent, it took nothing for granted.

Barkley sent a not-so-subtle message with that elbow: the Dream Team was there to dominate.

Angelo Victoriano, the only member of the 1992 Angola team still playing, remembers the elbow.

"Every time we go to the States, we meet Charles Barkley," he said. "He's very supportive of us. He always helps us out. He's a great person."

Barkley says he and Coimbra struck up a friendship that remains today.

"Everybody made a big deal about that (elbow)," Barkley said. "I told him it was nothing personal but, 'You hit me, I had to hit you back.'

"He came looking for me in 1996 in Atlanta to say hello. He said, 'You made me a big star in my country.' We've had a nice bond, a little friendship ever since then."

Barkley said his support is "emotional" and he regretted missing Monday's U.S.-Angola game.

"Our team has its work cut out," he said of the much-maligned basketball team. "I'm curious to see how they play in the next three games.

"But I love the Olympics. I like the swimming and the track and field. Everybody likes swimming and track and field."

And what about the other stuff, like dressage or synchronized diving, Chuck?

"Man, I'm not watching that crap."

Another message delivered.

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MIKE LOPRESTI | Gannett News Service

Olympics 2004 were games of education, enlightenment

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IAN O'CONNOR | The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

Biggest winner of 2004 Olympics: Greece

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CHRISTINE BRENNAN | USA TODAY

Athens scores satisfying win

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DAN BICKLEY | The Arizona Republic

Some U.S. women's teams put on best show in Athens

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LYNN HENNING | The Detroit News

U.S. basketball team has gone from stars to targets

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BOB KRAVITZ | The Indianapolis Star

It was Black Friday for U.S.

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