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Every athlete is made in training, but because we tend to dwell on events it's the outcome of the contest that we see and not the arduous preparation. Before stepping into the public arena, the true athlete must be dedicated to the one goal of sport: excellence. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote, "Badness you can get easily, in quantity: The road is smooth and lies close by. But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it, and rough at first. But when you come to the top, then it is easy, even though it is hard." In this picture of the Villanova basketball team engaged in a rebounding drill, and on the pages that follow, the photographer sought the special moments when the athlete, competing in a private arena, answers to those immortal gods.

Starkly shadowed against the isolated splendor of Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Mosca, Colo., the Adams State men's cross-country team endures a session of "power work."

As his father, Dolf, did for him, Red Sox Coach Doug Camilli passes along tricks of the trade to catchers Jorge Kuilan (left), Gary Tremblay (right) and his own son Kevin at the Winter Instructional League in Sarasota.

In the dim and broken light of Los Angeles' Main Street Gym, light heavyweight Leon Gray works, then rests, momentarily transported by the vision of his dream.

Each afternoon the Nebraska Cornhuskers stretch to warm up before practice begins, and then America's best team takes on America's best team.

Even subfreezing temperatures can't keep scullers from the icy rigors of their morning workout on the Charles River in Boston.

Imagine the Olympian hopes of these pintsized performers at the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics in Eugene, Ore., where bodies, and minds, are molded.

Before a round in Orlando, Dudley Logan practices with every club in his bag, while Victor Jones, his friend and caddie, patiently studies his swing.

By dawn's first gleaming, Quansett Farm's thoroughbred Independent Gold, Jane Hart up, follows owner Susan Yacubian and her horse into the soothing water of Buzzards Bay after a run on the beach in Westport, Mass.

To the Rye (N.Y.) Ranger Mites in an early morning practice, the game, and the goal, may seem larger than life, but they know it's only the beginning.