Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Well Worth Seeing How They Run

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Well Worth Seeing How They Run

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- This being an Olympic year, it is OK to talk track

and field.

Really. Go ahead. Impress a co-worker with your knowledge that

the "40" isn't an official event.

We treat track and field like a cousin who visits from Ohio

every three or four years and rambles on about his actuarial

business. Nice to see you come, nice to see you go. My, your

kids have grown.

A sport that ranks second in popularity only to soccer in parts

of Europe means so little to us that we know only the top

American stars, and we care to hear from even them only in

Olympic years.

And only during the Olympics. The Atlanta Grand Prix, a

world-class event held this past weekend on the very grounds in

which the Centennial Games will be staged in two months, drew

40,000 to an 80,000-seat stadium.

Some U.S. athletes, accustomed to performing at domestic events

in front of a smattering of maintenance workers and girlfriends,

marveled at the "big" crowd. They didn't notice the asterisk.

Local officials gave away 30,000 tickets, and most people came

for a ceremony dedicating the stadium. When pole-vaulter Sergey

Bubka of the Ukraine attempted a world-record 20 feet, 2 inches,

in the event's finale, barely 150 die-hards were still around to


Even so, track and field is the beating heart of a Summer

Olympics, and its champions often provide many of the most

lasting memories. It helps that there is no shortage of

prospective American heroes, from the redoubtable Michael

Johnson and Jackie Joyner-Kersee to the enigmatic Gwen Torrence

to the dogged Dan O'Brien and Carl Lewis.

Consider the burden of Johnson, for whom a scheduling

accommodation will facilitate his attempt to become the first

man to sweep the 200and 400meter competitions at a single Games.

"I think there's a lot of pressure being the highlight of the

U.S. Team and basically the highlight of the Summer Games,"

Johnson said Saturday after barely overtaking 1992 Olympic

champion Mike Marsh to win an extraordinary 200 for his 19th

consecutive victory at that distance. …

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