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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Crow gets Olympic reprieve
Synchronised swimmers in action
Crow had made her name in the pool before the accident
There have been controversial selections in Olympic history but none more so than that of little-known American synchronised swimmer Tammy Crow.

Crow will represent her country in Athens before returning home to serve a jail sentence for double manslaughter.

On 16 February 2003, Crow was driving her then boyfriend Cody Tatro - a teacher - and one of his pupils, 12-year-old Brett Slinger, to Dodge Ridge Ski Resort in California.

Her car skidded off the road in the snowy conditions. Tatro died when his head hit the steering column, while Slinger was killed as the vehicle hit a row of trees.

Whatever the outcome in the water in Athens, Crow will have to serve a three-month prison sentence on her return to the United States after pleading no contest to two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Crow says she will be swimming with both Tatro and Slinger's spirits when she takes on the world's best.

She recently told ABC television: "It never leaves my mind. It's always there. It's always in my heart.

"I was driving and everything was so calm, it was serene in the car. The next thing I remember is waking up or hearing voices. It felt like I was in a dream."

It's important to be accountable for your actions and for the choices that you make. In my mind anyway, she has not been
Devon Slinger, mother of Brett

Crow broke her arm in four places in the accident and had 11 screws and a titanium plate put in it during surgery.

The news of the accident was broken to her by a social worker as she sat in a hospital bed.

She told the Washington Post newspaper: "I was in shock. No, no, no, this can't be. It's not true. It must be somebody else. I was in complete shock. I didn't care about my injuries anymore. It didn't make any difference, really."

Her recovery has been astonishing considering the physical and mental scars of last year's accident.

While her team-mates have welcomed the decision to allow her to compete, there has been a potent mixture of support and outrage at the decision from others.

Her chances of competing at the Olympics looked virtually non-existent when Sonora Deputy District Attorney Jim Newkirk pursued criminal charges against her for the deaths of Tatro and Slinger.

At the heart of his complaint was the fact Crow had been drinking at a party the previous night and had had just two hours sleep.

Highway patrolman Rick Thoma, who was first on the scene of the accident, smelled alcohol on her breath but, when a blood alcohol test was taken three-and-a-half hours later, no alcohol was found in her bloodstream.

In the end, a police investigation concluded Crow had been driving too fast in the snowy conditions.

She duly received her sentence, which included a $22,000 retribution to Slinger's parents, who opposed the judge's decision to allow Crow to delay her jail term.

Family support

Despite Crow saying she will be swimming in memory of the deceased, Slinger's parents have asked her not to.

Devon Slinger, the boy's mother, said: "We all make mistakes but it's important to be accountable for your actions and for the choices that you make. In my mind anyway, she has not been."

However, she has the support of Tatro's family.

His mother Mary said: "Tammy has really reached out to our family. I don't have any bitterness toward Tammy because I look at it that I would rather receive the love from her than any hate."

Come August, Crow aims to repay that faith.





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