Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2003

A-Rod returns in midseason form

Alex Rodriguez looked perfectly healthy in his first game back for the Texas Rangers.

Rodriguez doubled twice and drove in a run Wednesday in Texas' 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Surprise, Ariz.

Rodriguez, who played a minor league game Tuesday, appeared in a major league exhibition game for the first time since March 12 because of a herniated disk in his neck.

He fouled out in the first inning against Ben Sheets and hit into a double play in the third.

''We talked before the fifth inning and he said he wanted to get a couple more at-bats because he was grinding,'' Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. ''He was impressive.''

Kwan wins qualifier, Cohen third, Hughes sixth

WASHINGTON -- Michelle Kwan could have done this in her sleep.

Kwan practically tumbled out of bed to beat Russia's Elena Sokolova and U.S. teammate Sasha Cohen, winning her qualifying group at the World Figure Skating Championships. Olympic champion Sarah Hughes was sixth.

''It's odd to skate so early, compete so early,'' said Kwan, whose Wednesday session began at 10:30 a.m. ''But all the skaters are in the same boat.''

Well, they wish they were in the same boat as Kwan.

Considered the ''old lady'' of the sport -- her first worlds were in 1994 -- the 22-year-old Kwan remains a force. The lack of an Olympic title has had little or no effect on her. Kwan tends to perform steadily, and better than the competition.

She skated in only two events this year, not having to leave this country for Skate America and the U.S. Championships. She won both, taking her seventh national title and sixth in a row.

Now Kwan leads at worlds, where she has won four times. Only Carol Heiss and Dick Button have won five among Americans.

Japan's Fumie Suguri, the bronze medalist a year ago, won the other qualifier, followed by Canada's Jennifer Robinson and Russia's Viktoria Volchkova.

In pairs, China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, with one of the most spectacular performances seen at this level in years, held onto their title over Russians Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.

Burk assails CBS, Augusta National

NEW YORK -- Martha Burk believes it is ''appalling'' that women who fight for the United States in Iraq face discrimination at home at private golf clubs like Augusta National.

''Broadcasting the Masters now and showcasing a club that discriminates against women is an insult to the nearly quarter million women in the U.S. armed forces,'' she said at a news conference Wednesday.

Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, was invited by a half dozen City Council members and representatives of civil rights groups denouncing CBS and the club for its all-male membership.

Several council members introduced a resolution Wednesday condemning Augusta National and asking CBS not to broadcast the tournament. The resolution will not be voted on until next month.

The Masters, the year's first major tournament, will be held April 10-13, and Burk has said she plans to protest in Augusta, Ga. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf to hold a protest at the club's front gates.

Mourning wants to play next season

MIAMI -- Alonzo Mourning intends to play basketball next season, as long as his body cooperates.

''My intentions are to play. The only thing that can stop me is my body,'' Mourning said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Chicago. ''Other than that, I know I can play.''

Mourning, who was forced to miss the 2002-2003 NBA season with a kidney ailment, was in Chicago to speak with hospital patients as part of an educational campaign called Rebound from Anemia. Anemia is a frequent byproduct of chronic illnesses like kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

''Basketball has helped give me a great lifestyle,'' Mourning said. ''I've been doing it for 20 years, and it's difficult to turn off the switch. I want to leave on my own terms. I don't want to be forced out by anything.''

Sitting out the season was tough on Mourning, especially having to watch from the sidelines as the Miami Heat dropped into last place in the Atlantic Division.

''It was difficult to sit around and watch your team suffer and leave it all out there, and know that you can still contribute to those games,'' Mourning said.

Mourning was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis in October 2000, and missed most of that season before making a surprising return. He was able to play the entire 2001-2002 season, and made his seventh All-Star team appearance.

''I want to send out a message to people that this, too, can happen to you,'' Mourning said about his work in trying to raise awareness about anemia and kidney disease. ''You, too, are a target if you don't take care of your body.''

Dr. Patrick Murray, a University of Chicago Medical Center kidney specialist accompanying Mourning on his visit, said Mourning is a role model for patients.

''He's pretty much a dream patient because he's very serious about his care, and was in wonderful shape going in,'' Murray said.

Mourning said he did not let rumors surrounding the Feb. 20 trading deadline distract him from his recovery. His expiring contract, which paid him $20.6 million for this season, was attractive to teams trying to open up salary cap space for next season.

''The trade rumors happen every year, with everybody,'' Mourning said. ''The only thing I can control is Alonzo Mourning playing next year. The distraction, to tell the truth, is having to deal with my own body.''

Mourning would not speculate whether he would be back with the Heat next year, or for how much money he might sign for next season given the questions about his health.

''Whatever the market provides,'' he said.

Mourning sounded confident about his prospects next season, but remained cautious given his relapse before the 2002-2003 season.

''I know that I'm ready,'' he said. ''But anything can happen.''

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