Beijing Olympics notebook

Aug. 08, 2008, 7:54 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Heather Petri, the oldest U.S. women's water polo player, is surrounded by 10 first-time Olympians.

Yet the player nicknamed "Petie" isn't feeling her age. In fact, the 30-year-old is getting a charge just from being around the rookies as they prepare for their debut Monday against the host Chinese.

"The things I love about them is watching them here at the Olympics and at any major tournament - looking in their eyes and the wonder and the smiles that come about when they see something they've never seen before," Petri said after Friday's practice at the U.S. training center at Beijing Normal University.

"I've seen these things and I know I had that look eight years ago, but I can gain that back and have that same excitement when I'm with them. And I love that."

Petri, along with teammate Brenda Villa, helped the U.S. win the silver medal in Sydney in 2000 and the bronze in 2004. She wouldn't say if this would be her final Olympics.

"Right now, I'm just looking through this," she said. "Being able to do it once, twice, even three times has been awesome, so I don't know what's going to happen next. But you never know. Maybe there's something else totally different out there for me."


FUTURE GAMES: The head of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics says Beijing's National Stadium is the highlight of the 2008 games' venue plan.

The stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies and athletic events, is known as the Bird's Nest because of its interwoven beams.

"I applaud the Beijing organizing committee for the venue's unique design concept and modern adaptation of the main sporting venue," Chicago 2016 chairman and chief executive Patrick G. Ryan said in a statement.

Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley came to Beijing to look for lessons to apply to their city's Olympics proposal.

Chicago is competing with Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Tokyo. The winner will be chosen next year.


BRAZIL'S BOUNCE?: The Brazilian men's indoor volleyball team was bewildered by its recent loss in the FIVB World League competition.

Coach Bernardo Rezende hopes that did the trick.

The dominant Brazilians had won every major international competition since 2003 until this summer, when the U.S. men captured their first World League title.

The World League loss gave other teams in Beijing hope for an upset. Rezende believes it taught the Brazilians a lesson about complacency.

"We've never been unbeatable," Rezende said. "In fact, we've won maybe more than we should."

He added: "It can happen. I hope they've learned that."

Brazil won the World Cup last year, defending its 2003 title. They also repeated as gold-medal winners in the 2002 and 2006 world championships.

And they won the gold in Athens.

Heading into competition in Beijing, Brazil is the top-ranked team in the world and the favorite to claim the gold again.

The men's volleyball competition opens Sunday, with 12 teams divided into two groups for the preliminary round. Brazil faces Egypt in its opening match.

The women's volleyball competition starts Saturday, and alternates days with the men.


PIN CYCLE: Track cycling sprint world champion Victoria Pendleton has been exchanging language lessons for Olympic pins.

The British star, who is favorite for the gold in Beijing, is being taught a few words of Mandarin by the volunteers at the athletes' village.

In return, she's been handing out the British team's Olympic pins - the ubiquitous metal badges that almost every team and media organization produces for each games and that are collected, exchanged or traded assiduously by many of the volunteers and staff.

"I'm determined to give them all away this year. Last time I went home with some and I was really annoyed with myself," Pendleton said.