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Rhode Island Olympians poised to bring home medals
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- American heavyweight Jason Estrada says everything he does is for his 3-year-old son, Lennox. But U.S.  boxing officials wouldn�t mind him doing something for them, too, when he competes at the Summer Olympics in Athens this month.

Estrada, 23, of Providence, is trying to end a drought for American heavyweights, who haven�t taken home a medal of any sort since Ray Mercer won the 201-pound division in 1988.

�I can box, and I can bang if I have to,� Estrada told The Associated Press earlier this week.

American boxers failed to win a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the first such shutout in 52 years, and Cuba and Russia have surpassed the United States as world powers in amateur boxing.

�I hope we can break that cycle in Greece,� said U.S. coach Basheer Abdullah.

Estrada is one of a handful of Rhode Islanders competing in the games, and he, like the others, is confident in his chances to bring home a medal.

Here�s a look at some of the athletes:


Carol Cronin. Competing in her first Olympics, the Connecticut College graduate and Jamestown resident will represent the United States in sailing in the new Yngling class. The Yngling is a 21-foot keelboat that requires a crew of three, and Cronin acknowledges the dynamics are different from sailing alone or with a partner.

�Also, we have stepped to a much higher level of detail and time with this effort than I have ever done before, and that has been really, really fun and rewarding,� she wrote in an e-mail interview with The AP.

Cronin was something of a sailing pioneer at Connecticut College. The Camels sailing team had just reached varsity status in 1982, her freshman year. The team had no coach and little support.

�That forced us to be independent and solve our own problems, whether they were logistical, financial, or personal,� Cronin recalled. �That turned out to be excellent training for an Olympic campaign.�


Meg Gaillard. The Pelham, N.Y. resident has been training in Jamestown, and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic sailing team by winning the Europe class at the U.S. Sailing Trials in February.

�It�s a little bit surreal, but it�s pretty awesome,� she said at the time. �I get to be an Olympian.�

Gaillard, 30, earned her spot on the team after two failed attempts. She also went to Connecticut College.

�She�s probably the strongest woman I�ve ever met,� Connecticut College coach Jeff Bresnahan said of Gaillard.  ï¿½There�s muscle everywhere, and she just physically dominates the boat.�


Katie McDowell. The Barrington resident, sailing with Isabelle Kinsolving, of New York, qualified for the Athens Olympics in the 470 class by finishing eighth out of 53 boats at the world championships in Croatia.

That finish made the United States one of just seven nations that qualified boats in all 11 events in the games. The others are Australia, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. As host country, Greece receives an automatic entry in every event.

Josh Adams, an international coach and competitor, wrote in the recent issue of SAIL magazine that McDowell and Kinsolving�s finish in Croatia is �a sign of their potential in Athens.� He rated their medal chances as �moderate.�

McDowell said the team has a lot of strengths, but there was room for improvement before Athens. She said they concentrated on improving their starts and managing risk.


Rhode Island is also sending athletes to the games who are competing for their home countries. Former Providence College cross country and track star Maria McCambridge is set to run the 5,000 meter race for Ireland.

McCambridge joins two former Friars and one current student, at the games.

Maria McMahon-Davenport, a 1998 graduate, is to compete for Ireland in the 10,000 meter race; and Mark Carroll, a 1995 graduate, is to compete in the 5,000 meters, also for Ireland. Kim Smith, a PC junior, is competing in the 5,000 meter race for New Zealand.


Estrada started training as a fighter when he was a youngster at Manfredo�s Gym in Pawtucket. He said the Olympics is like �a jump-start� to what he hopes will be a short but successful career in the ring.

Favored for medals along with Estrada are Cuban Michael Nunez and Russian Alexander Povetkin, the reigning world and European champion.

�A part of my dream has already been fulfilled,� Estrada said of being on the team. �But I dream about winning the gold all the time.�

Estrada said his son is main motivation.

�Everything I do, I do for him.�


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