Two with Alaska ties qualify for Olympics

Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Two athletes with Alaska ties will compete in this summer's Olympic games, including a Homer native who qualified for the United States' first women's Olympic wrestling team.

Tela O'Donnell, 21, will be among five American women who will compete in Athens, Greece. She secured the spot over the weekend in Indianapolis with a pair of victories over national champion Tina George.

"It's going to be so neat to get the chance to wrestle in a place where wrestling started," O'Donnell said Sunday.

Women's freestyle wrestling will be an Olympic sport for the first time in the 2004 games.

O'Donnell defeated George, her archrival, before more than 57,000 people in a best-of-3 tournament at the RCA Dome.

"I'm not good at remembering how many times we've wrestled against one another," O'Donnell said. "It just feels good that I'm the one who finished on top."

University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate Matt Emmons will compete in the air rifle event.

The four-time NCAA champion from Browns Mills, N.J., finished three days of competition at Fort Benning, Ga., in second place with a score of 1,985. The top two men made the Olympic team.

Emmons, a 2002 world champion in prone, will attempt to qualify for the prone and three-position events today.

"I still need to stay focused," Emmons said in a written statement. "It is really easy to get hung up on the score and the pressure, but I know I need to concentrate on the things I can control."

Joining Emmons in today's competition will be former UAF shooters Amber Darland and Melissa Mulloy-Mecozzi and current team member Jamie Beyerle, who each failed to make the women's three-position team on Sunday.

Three other Alaskans are still chasing Olympic berths: Homer's Stacey Borgman in rowing, Petersburg's Derek Gibb in swimming and Haines' Carl Blackhurst in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

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