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As I flipped through the Spirit of '96 section, I came to the
page with Ekaterina Gordeeva, and tears filled my eyes.
KRISTEN SHUMAN, Coatesville, Pa.


Among the 18 compelling events of 1996 chosen by your writers
(Spirit of '96, Dec. 30-Jan. 6), one was devoted to a smirking,
fur-bedecked celebrity who had been "caught--almost
literally--with his pants down." Another described a snarling
pit bull of a personality whose spirit for the year was
encapsulated in telling your magazine what it can do. You could
have run a piece about Pete Sampras's victory in his
quarterfinal match against Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open. At
7-7 in the fifth-set tiebreaker Sampras overcame a sick stomach
(he had vomited earlier) and delivered a second serve ace. Talk
about intestinal fortitude.
DON DANIELS, Encinitas, Calif.

You devoted a page each to Albert Belle, Michael Irvin and
Buster Douglas (Buster Douglas?!), but you couldn't find space
to mention Kirby Puckett? Puckett was perhaps the best player
since Lou Gehrig to have his career ended by a freak disease.
While thankfully his condition is not life-threatening, it
shortened the career of one of the classiest and most talented
athletes of this generation.

How disappointing that your writers' compelling people and
events included Albert Belle and Michael Irvin, along with two
moments from the gangster-infested sport of boxing, and omitted
the wonderful final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was a
stirring goaltending duel, with Uwe Krupp returning from a
supposedly season-ending knee injury to score the Cup-winning
goal in the third overtime.
GLENN LOCKE, Boulder, Colo.

Your writers made their choices for "the most compelling people
and the most stirring moments of the year in sports." Not once
in 25 pages was Tiger Woods mentioned. So how is he your
Sportsman of the Year?

How could you overlook the tribute to Ozzie Smith at Busch
Stadium in September, when his number was retired? My husband
and I attended all three games and the pregame activities to
honor Smith. It was one of the most moving weekends of our
lives. The outpouring of love and admiration was overwhelming.
JEANNE M. BEAL, Belleville, Ill.

An obvious choice was Kerri Strug's final vault in the women's
gymnastics team competition at the Olympics. Anyone who watched
her land on one foot to ensure the gold medal for the U.S. team
saw an exhilarating moment.
RICH HERSCH, East Norwalk, Conn.

How could you leave out LSU's Warren Morris? Morris, a walk-on,
fourth-year junior at LSU on academic scholarship, missed most
of the baseball season with a broken bone in his right hand. In
games in which he was in the starting lineup, including the
national championship game, the Tigers were 22-0. In that 22nd
game Morris hit a two-run homer in LSU's last at bat to win what
is considered by many to be the best College World Series final
ever. Having coached against Morris for two years as an
assistant at Mississippi, I know that it couldn't have happened
to a classier young man.
TOM FLEENOR, Oxford, Miss.


Why is Donovan Bailey "whining" about Americans (Scorecard, Jan.
13)? The U.S. media have always put the Olympic 100-meter
champion on a pedestal, including dubbing him the world's
fastest human. Along comes Bailey, who wins the Olympic 100,
sets a world record in the process and is ignored by the
American media. I think it safe to say that had Bailey been from
the U.S., he would have garnered enough votes to rival Michael
Johnson for the world athlete of the year. MIKE LEGERE, Quesnel,

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN As readers duly took note, Sampras (top), Strug (right) and Morris also gave us memorable moments in 1996. [Pete Sampras]

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS [See caption above--Kerri Strug]

COLOR PHOTO: JED JACOBSOHN/ALLSPORT [See caption above--Warren Morris]