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    RUSSIAN AND US ATHLETES. STIFF COMPETITION IN BUDAPEST.

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    BELGRADE, March 5, 2004. (RIA Novosti). A world athletics indoor championship began in Budapest on Friday.

    As head national coach Valery Kulichenko said, 54 Russian athletes - 25 men and 29 women - will compete in the world championship.

    The competition which is to end on March 7, as before, bodes stiff competition between the two leading athletic powers - Russia and the USA.

    "By our calculations, the teams can win 16 medals each," Kulichenko said.

    In the Russian specialists' opinion, the Russian athletes can count on six gold and six bronze medals, as well as on four silver ones, while their main rival - the Americans - can reckon on seven gold, four silver and six bronze medals.

    As the head coach said, the team includes not only famous athletes but also athletes who will make their debut in high-caliber official competitions. Such Russian Internationals-debutants will number 16 in Budapest.

    In line with tradition, athletics lovers expect world records from the upcoming championship. Three Russian athletes at the minimum - Natalya Nazarova, Svetlana Feofanova and Yelena Isinbayeva - can set new world records in Budapest.

    At the recent championship of Russia Nazarova set a new national record in the 400-metre race. By all estimates, she can attain even higher results in the immediate future.

    Tough competition for the lead has long been going on between women pole vaulters Feofanova and Isinbayeva - they alternately set new world records. The world best quite recently belonged to Isinbayeva but Feofanova regained the lead by clearing the bar at 485 cm.

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