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Police break up crowd

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic Police sprayed a chemical substance Saturday night, dispersing thousands of fans waiting outside the already-packed volleyball arena before the Pan American Games gold medal game between Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican women won the match in five sets, 15-13 in the fifth after blowing a two-set lead. The arena, which holds about 8,000, was nearly full two hours earlier as the U.S. women beat Brazil for the bronze medal. When that match ended, fans were sitting in aisles and on the floor, and armed policemen and militia were walking through the building with guard dogs.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia was at the match, and joined the crowd in chanting ''Oro, Oro (Gold, Gold).''

Dominican authorities said many of the people outside the arena had tickets, but there was no room for them inside. When the spray was used, it seeped into the arena and both teams were forced to stop practicing and go back to the locker rooms.

An adjacent pavillion was set up with big-screen TVs for the overflow crowd to watch the game, which began after a 30-minute delay.

''I've got tickets but they refused to let me in,'' said Latricia Gomez, flashing two tickets.

Soldiers with shot guns stood outside the stadium, others sat atop jeeps, while several hundred fans lingered around the arena's locked doors.

Police said they did not use tear gas, but would not identify the substance that was sprayed.

Earlier in the games, the basketball arena was the scene of a similar problem before the Dominican men played Brazil for gold, although police never were forced to intervene.

The fans rooted loudly for the Americans as they beat won the bronze 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 25-19 against a team that swept them in the round-robin. Wiz Bachman of Lakeville, Minn., led the United States with 18 points and Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) added 17.

''I've definitely been in packed houses, but not like this,'' Bachman said ''You look around and there are no empty seats and the stairways are filled.''

The Americans were impressed by the fans who waved U.S. flags and chanted ''U-S-A, U-S-A.''

''It's very good,'' Bachman said ''You never know how the crowd is going to react. We had a warm feeling when they were shooting for the U.S.''

Everyone shoots for the U.S. team in the pool, but the Americans usually win. Saturday night was no different as they took three more gold medals, finishing the competition with 21 13 by the women. The U.S. swimmer set 20 Pan Ams records during the competition.

''That was one of the goals our team had total dominance,'' said Jamie Reid of Puyallup, Wash., who won the 200 backstroke just ahead of Diana MacManus of Irvine, Calif.

Kara Lynn Joyce of Ann Arbor, Mich., set a Pan Ams mark of 25.24 seconds in the 50 freestyle. She had broken the games record earlier in preliminaries..

The last event of the meet saw the U.S. men set a games record of 3:37.27 in the 400 medley relay. The swimmers were Peter Marshall (Atlanta), Mark Gangloff (Akron, Ohio), Ben Michaelson (Seymour, Conn.) and Nick Brunelli (Norwood, Mass).

With one event remaining Sunday, the United States had 115 gold medals, 81 silvers and 75 bronzes for 271. Cuba was at 150 with 72-40-38, and Canada had 120: 29-56-44.

In boxing, Aaron Garcia of Vista, Calif., was routed by Colombia's Likar Ramos 33-12 in the featherweight final. Garcia collected silver.

Americans swept the archery team competitions, led by their individual gold medalists, Jennifer Nichols (Cheyenne, Wyo.) and Vic Wunderle (Mason City, Ill.). And there were two titles in kayaking.

The men's archery squad of Wunderle, Guy Krueger (Blessing, Texas) and Glenn Meyers (Grand Rapids, Mich.) beat Mexico for the gold, 245-237.

''Our mission was the quest for the gold, and our mission was accomplished,'' men's coach Tom Parrish said.

Nichols (Cheyenne, Wyo.), bronze medalist Stephanie Miller, (Naperville, Ill.), and Janet Dykman (El Monte, Calif.) beat Mexico, as well.

''This feels awesome,'' womens coach, Cindy Bevilacqua said. ''They worked hard and it paid off; I knew they had it in them. We did what we set out to accomplish and we can move forward to Athens now.''

Ruth Nortje (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and Kathy Colin (Kailua, Hawaii) each earned gold medals in kayaking. Nortje sprinted to victory in the 500-meter singles race. Ninety minutes later, Nortje and Colin cruised to an easy victory in the women's doubles.

''This feels great. I like the color of these medals better,'' said Colin, who previously won a silver.



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