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Women sports stars tackle broadcast journalism

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For female sports stars looking for new worlds to conquer, broadcast journalism is becoming a popular choice as a second career. Opportunities in broadcasting have generally been slow in coming, but women sports figures - among them former tennis champ Virginia Wade, former long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, and former gymnast Cathy Rigby - are now not only taking positions behind mikes and television cameras as commentators of sports events, but they are also working behind the scenes as production assistants, producers, and directors of sports programs.

When these women appear on camera before wide television audiences, they speak with the authority of their own accomplishments behind them. They have earned their credibility by their own top-flight careers in sports.

As Donna deVarona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, comments, ''We have all been there. We have experienced that long road to the top and we know what it takes to get there.'' Miss deVarona is now assistant to the president of sports of the American Broadcasting Company, an executive position that involves her in management and planning as well as in regular on-camera coverage of swimming and other sports events.

Miss deVarona discovered in 1965, at age 17, that her success as an athlete could indeed be the starting point for a unique second career in television. It was then that she became the first woman on network television (ABC) in the sports broadcasting field. What she earned for her commentary on local California swimming events helped finance her study of political science at UCLA in Los Angeles.

As her broadcast career developed later in New York, she covered three summer Olympics and various national championships, then did a five-year stint for NBC Sports. In the fall of 1983 she rejoined ABC in time to work on the extensive coverage of the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

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