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Old 08-13-2008, 09:31 AM
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Father of mine - The men who helped shape the lives of Olympic athletes

For many Olympic athletes, fathers are the reason the Beijing Games are a a reality. When tired children wanted to relax, when they thought they had done their best, fathers pushed them to seek more.

Those were likely difficult moments for children, hearing their father tell them that their performance, all they had worked for, wasn't as good as it could be. But it was in those moments, perhaps as athletes muttered some choice words under their breath, that expectations for greatness were set.

Fathers provided support and encouragement, too. Kind words after difficult losses, and hours of extra practice in the gym and on the field after everyone else had gone home.

Following are eight story lines about fathers and Olympic athletes who will be competing in August.

On the bike

Like his father Davis in 1984, teen cycling sensation Taylor Phinney will race in the Olympics. But against a much more emotional backdrop. Davis Phinney, one of America's most successful cyclists, is fighting Parkinson's disease.

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Straight shooter

Gymnast Alexander "Sasha" Artemev competes for his father and coach, Vladimir, who, as a Soviet gymnast, missed the 1984 summer Games. The best thing about working with his father. "He's never going to tell me something that isn't true," says Alexander.

Read story | Watch video | See photos

Stepping up

Shooter Corey Cogdell's mother died when she was 10 years old, which is when her father Dick quit his job to raise Corey and her sister Tanis on a fixed income. Dick, who taught his daughters to hunt in Alaska, is one of Corey's idols.

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Linked by sport

David Jacobson, a former member of the U.S. national fencing team, turned his daughters on to the sport, almost by accident. Emily and Sada competed at the 2004 Olympics, with Sada winning a bronze medal. Sada is aiming for another in Beijing.

Read story | Watch video | See photos

Champion pedigree

The bar of expectation is set high in the Liukin household. Father Valeri won two gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Games. But daughter Nastia could equal that in Beijing. He has a strong hand in the outcome as he coaches Nastia.

Watch video | See photos

Long start

When 10-year-old Ryan Hall told his father that he wanted to join him on a 15-mile run around Big Bear Lake, Mickey Hall said yes, as long as there was no whining about getting tired. Ryan got tired, but finished. Ryan won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and will compete in Beijing.

Read story | Watch video | See photos

Model of support

Early in her career, softball superstar Jennie Finch told her father Doug exactly what she wanted: to win. The softball superstar and Olympic champion says that he pushed her to succeed.
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Letting go

Weighlifter Natalie Woolfolk credits her father Kirk for knowing when to let go. He coached her through high school then signed off on her move to work under a new coach at the U.S. Olympic training center. She calls their relationship "perfect."
Watch video | Read story

Familiar discipline

Track and field is a family affair for the Clarks. In 2000, Hazel competed at the Sydney Games with her older sister Joetta and her sister-in-law Jearl Miles. All three women are coached by Hazel's brother, J.J. The Clark siblings learned the discipline they needed to become champions from their father, Joe, whose story was the subject of the movie Lean on Me.

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