The Olympic decathlon will be contested on Aug. 5 and 6, but the key moment in the event may have come on June 27, when Dan O'Brien no-heighted in the pole vault at the U.S. Olympic Trials and failed to make the team. O'Brien is the world champion and would have been the strong favorite in Barcelona. The cofavorites now are Dave Johnson of the U.S., O'Brien's Reebok ad partner, and Michael Smith of Canada. While Mike and Dave does not have the alliterative snap of Dan and Dave, Johnson and Smith should wage an exhilarating battle.
At last year's 1991 world championships in Tokyo, Smith was second to O'Brien with a personal best of 8,549 points. A knee injury forced Johnson, 29, out of the 1,500 in Tokyo, but he has recovered and has a personal best of 8,727 points.
The 24-year-old Smith has been a national hero in Canada since winning the 1990 Commonwealth Games decathlon. To Canadians, rocked by countryman Ben Johnson's suspension for anabolic steroid use in Seoul, Smith, an honors student in commerce at the University of Toronto, seemed a godsend. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has twice celebrated him in hour-long, prime-time documentaries.
Like O'Brien, will be a worthy champion, indeed.