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Area residents can experience Olympics close to home

Every four years, the Olympics put the spotlight on a number of sports that rarely enter the public consciousness outside of the two weeks between the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Medals are awarded in sports such as badminton and table tennis, as well as the more popular disciplines such as gymnastics and swimming. And with the increase in awareness of many of these little-seen sports usually comes an increase in interest.

Believe it or not, the opportunity exists in and around Pittsburgh to participate in almost every Summer Olympic sport, from archery to water polo. Here's a list of some of the less conventional sports of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and where to find them in Western Pennsylvania.

Archery: Falcon Archers in Canonsburg is home to a National Field Archery Association - approved and certified field archery course and also boasts an indoor range and clubhouse. Membership is required. For information, call the clubhouse at 724-746-2880 or visit falconarchers.hypermart.net .

Badminton: The Pittsburgh Badminton Club plays Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Club4Life in Monroeville. Contact Anu Chopra at chopra@ppg.com for details.

Canoe/kayak flatwater and slalom: Kayak Pittsburgh offers canoe and kayak rentals from both their Downtown (under the Roberto Clemente Bridge next to PNC Park) and North Park locations. Rentals are also available at Millvale Waterfront Park. Some of the East's finest whitewater is also within an hour or two of Pittsburgh. For whitewater paddling, visit the Three Rivers Paddling Club Web site at www.threeriverspaddlingclub.com .

BMX biking: South Park has long had one of the top BMX tracks in the country and hosts weekly practices and races for anyone who likes a little more daredevil in their bike riding experience. For information, call 412-831-3620.

Mountain biking: Most of the city and county parks have enough trails to accommodate everyone from beginners to experts. For information on where to go for what, visit the Pittsburgh Off-Road Cyclists Web site at www.porcmtbclub.org and click on the trails link. Another place to find maps is at the Allegheny County Parks Web site at www.alleghenycounty.us/parks . Click "maps of the parks" under topics on the left hand side.

Track cycling: It's not a velodrome, but there is track racing to be had at the oval on Washington Boulevard every Friday night with the Pittsburgh Velo Masters. Time Trials are on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays and track races on 2nd and 4th Fridays. Visit polish.slavic.pitt.edu/pmvc/ for details.

Fencing : Eight-week beginner courses for youth, teens and adults start at Three Rivers Fencing Center at The Factory in Point Breeze beginning Sept. 6 and Sept. 10 in conjunction with the Peters Township Recreation Center. Visit trfc.typepad.com or call 412-731-4454 for details.

Rowing : Both Three Rivers Rowing Association in Millvale and Steel City Rowing in Verona teach and coach rowing and offer competitive leagues for both beginners and experienced rowers. Visit threeriversrowing.org or www.steelcityrowing.org for details.

Shooting: Seven Springs is in the process of building a sporting clays complex that will host tournaments, private lessons, corporate and non-profit events under the direction of Michael Mohr. Their temporary 100-target course is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 800-452-2223, extension 7899, or email Mohr at mmohr@7springs.com for more details.

Table tennis: The South Park Table Tennis Club is home to both beginners and state champions and runs league play Tuesday nights and open play and practice Thursday nights. Contact Gary Egri at 412-276-4391 or Harold Elson at 412-997-8947 for details or visit pittsburghtabletennis.com .

Triathlon : The annual Pittsburgh Triathlon has already passed, but there's still time to enter the more accessible sprint distance Baierl Family YMCA Triathlon at North Park on Sunday, Aug. 10. For details, go to active.com and search for Baierl Family YMCA Triathlon.

Volleyball: Pittsburgh Sports Leagues runs co-ed indoor volleyball leagues throughout the year, and a sand volleyball league in the summer. Also included among leagues offered by PSL are basketball (men's and co-ed) and soccer. Registration for fall leagues opens Aug. 12. Visit www.pump.org for details.

Water polo: The Pittsburgh Water Polo Club offers instructional practices year-round for children through adults at various high school and summer pools. Visit www.eteamz.com/pittsburghwaterpolo or email info@pittsburghwaterpolo.com for details.

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