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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Cuba set Olympic standard
The USA celebrate victory in 2000
The USA enjoyed a rare victory in Sydney in 2000

Baseball had to bide its time before joining the Olympic family of sports.

The basics of bat and ball date back centuries, but the first record of a form of baseball was documented in 1839 when General Abner Doubleday organised a game for his troops.

Within six years Alexander Cartwright had founded the first club - the New York Knickerbockers - and rival teams started sprouting up in the 1870s when the first professional league was formed.

Baseball made its Olympic bow in 1912 but had to wait 80 years before it was granted medal status.

In all the sport was played at demonstration level on six separate occasions - seven including the Finnish baseball exhibition in Helsinki in 1952.

In 1912, an American team consisting of players from other Olympic disciplines took the honours.

With the wealth of experience and finances on offer in Major League baseball, it is a fair assumption that the USA would dominate almost a century on.

Despite their winning gold last time out, it is the wrong assumption.

Cuba are the dominant force in world baseball, most recently adding the Pan American and World titles to their haul of victories.

At Olympic level they won gold in 1992 and 1996, when Orestes Kindelan was the star of the show scoring a record nine home runs in a memorable victorious campaign on American soil.

Cuba looked set to make it a hat-trick four years ago.

Although the authorities had paved the way for professionals to take part in Sydney, as the tournament coincided with the close of the major league season few beat a path to Australia from the USA.

Cuba bounced back from a shock defeat to the Netherlands in the round-robin stage, a loss that ruined a 21-match unbeaten run, to beat the USA 6-1.

But the Americans learned from their defeat and rallied in the final to pull off a shock 4-0 victory.

MEDAL TABLE (since 1992)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Cuba 2 1 0 3
USA 1 0 1 2
Japan 0 1 1 2
Chinese Taipei 0 1 0 1
South Korea 0 0 1 1





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