Inside Olympic Sports

July 02, 2000

Stepping Out
A sparkling women's metric mile highlighted the Prefontaine
Classic

Last Saturday afternoon Regina Jacobs gathered her gear and
headed out of Oregon's Hayward Field after running a personal
best of 1:58.08 in the 800 meters at the Prefontaine Classic,
good for second place behind 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Maria
Mutola of Mozambique. Because the 800 is not Jacobs's primary
event (she's the U.S.-record holder in the 5,000 and a two-time
world championships silver medalist at 1,500), her Pre
performance, in essence a high-level training run, underscored
her superb Olympic-year fitness. Jacobs paused to look at the
scoreboard, where the placings in another event, the
just-concluded 1,500 meters, were displayed. In that race Suzy
Favor Hamilton of the U.S. had produced a front-running,
wind-cutting 4:00.79, only to be nipped at the finish by
reigning world 5,000-meter champ Gabriela Szabo of Romania, who
ran a 4:00.73.

Jacobs smiled knowingly, hers and Favor Hamilton's performances
having illuminated what has become increasingly obvious: The
women's 1,500 has become the deepest and most intriguing middle-
or long-distance event in U.S. track. Not only is Jacobs, who
will be 37 in August, running better than ever, but two-time
Olympian Favor Hamilton, 31, has recovered from Achilles tendon
surgery in the spring of 1999, while Marla Runyan, a legally
blind former heptathlete who did not run in Eugene because of a
hip injury, has continued the steep improvement that took her
from obscurity to the final of the '99 world championships. "We
could have three American women in the Olympic final," said Favor
Hamilton last Saturday. "That would be incredible." It would also
be unprecedented.

Jacobs, who graduated from Stanford in 1985 and was a serviceable
runner for nearly a decade after that, began her climb to Olympic
medal favorite in 1993, when she altered her diet and training to
correct an iron deficiency. Last summer at the worlds she lost to
'96 Olympic double gold medalist Svetlana Masterkova of Russia by
less than a second. Since then Jacobs and her husband-coach, Tom
Craig, have worked on refining her biomechanics and her tactics
to improve her chances of beating Masterkova in the final 100
meters. En route to the Olympics, Jacobs will chase Mary Slaney's
U.S. records in the 1,500 (3:57.12) and the mile (4:16.7), set in
1983 and '85 respectively. She followed her 800 on Saturday with
an impressive 8:42.55 on Sunday in the 3,000 meters at the Adidas
Oregon Track Classic in Portland.

Jacobs will have company in pursuit of Slaney's records, because
Favor Hamilton also has never looked better. After taking over
for the rabbit at 800 meters, she opened a 20-meter lead on Szabo
with less than 200 to go and was caught only in the final
strides, throwing herself over the finish line as Szabo closed
frantically. "I'm happy for Suzy, that she is back," says Szabo.
"It's good for America that she is running again, and it's good
for the sport."

Long a sprint-oriented runner who disliked long-distance
training, Favor Hamilton was forced during her recovery from
surgery to forgo sprinting for several months. She replaced it
with long, steady distance. "I did 75-minute runs, which I had
never done," she says. The distance work made her stronger and
better able to sustain speed when she returned to full health,
all of which should stand her in good stead for the push to
Sydney.

It was a tumultuous 1999 off the track as well for Favor
Hamilton. In September her 37-year-old brother, Dan Favor,
committed suicide. It is in memory of Dan, a manic-depressive who
Suzy says had stopped taking medication at the time of his
suicide, that Favor Hamilton began using her maiden name again.
"After he died, I began to understand the struggle that his life
must have been," says Favor Hamilton. "I've decided that I want
to make every race I run a spectacular event."

As anyone who was at Hayward Field can tell you, she is honoring
that resolve.

Sprint Showdown
What Price Glory?

The principal question regarding the much-anticipated Maurice
Greene-Michael Johnson 200-meter showdown at the U.S. Olympic
Trials in Sacramento later this month is no longer Who will win?
but rather Will either man's health survive the race? Rhetoric
continued to build last weekend in Eugene, where Johnson again
called the trash-talking Greene "immature," while Greene's coach,
John Smith, dismissed Johnson's 19.32-second world record, set in
1996, as "a day you get once in a lifetime," and said that MJ "is
a 19.90, 19.85, 19.80 sprinter right now." This was after Greene
had won the Pre 200 in an easy 19.93, with a wind just above the
legal limit. Johnson, opting for the 400, had cruised to victory
in 43.92.

There's a chance that all the hoopla over the trials 200 will
cause one or both to forget that their primary aim is Sydney and
to risk injury pushing for a win in Sacramento. While Johnson is
a veteran with two Olympic and six world championships individual
gold medals, he's also hypercompetitive. Greene has three world
golds since '97 and thrives on reducing many of his races to mano
a mano battles. Asked whether he would remind Greene that beating
Johnson at the trials is not his ultimate goal, Greene's manager,
Emanuel Hudson, said, "I tell him, 'If you win the trials and
don't make it to September because you're hurt, nobody will
remember.'"

U.S. Wrestling Trials
Lone Star's Lone Star

Brandon Slay was eight and living in Amarillo, Texas, when the
1984 Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Most wrestling matches at
those Games were televised at on tape-delay, so Brandon and his
grandmother, Dorothy, would go to bed early, set their alarms for
2 a.m. and wake up to watch wrestlers such as Bruce Baumgartner
and Dave Schultz compete for Olympic gold. With no college
programs in Texas, the TV was as close as the Slays could get to
big-time wrestling.

Now Slay is right in the thick of it. He won the 76-kilogram
(167.5-pound) weight class at the Olympic trials last Saturday in
Dallas's Reunion Arena, becoming, it is believed, the first Lone
Star State native to make a U.S. wrestling team. "This is a dream
I've had since I was little," says Slay, 24. "When I was growing
up, people all over Texas would ask me, 'Are you going to the
Olympics?' and I always said, 'Yes, ma'am,' or 'Yes, sir.' Maybe
now more kids will believe that a Texan can be an Olympian."

There was little doubt on Saturday. Under the trials format Slay,
as national champion in his weight class, was given a bye to the
final, where he faced the winner of a challenge tournament in a
best-of-three series. Before a home crowd of 9,434, including
Dorothy, 73, and a few hundred others from Amarillo, Slay beat
Brian Dolph, his former assistant coach at Penn, 5-2 and 3-1.

Slay has limited international experience, but the U.S. freestyle
team, which is ranked second in the world, includes five former
world championship medalists, and should match their five-medal
haul from 1996. (The U.S. Greco-Roman trials were also held in
Dallas, with all eight berths going to first-time Olympians.)

Slay was a three-time state champion at Tascosa High, where his
coach, Johnny Cobb, created the Pit Bull Award, to honor Slay's
ferocious style. Though recruited by several major colleges, Slay
paid his own way to Penn, where he was a two-time NCAA runner-up
while earning a degree from the Wharton School of Business.

After graduating in May 1998, Slay moved to the Olympic training
center in Colorado Springs. While training six hours a day, he
worked 16 hours a week as an investment adviser for Charles
Schwab. In April he won the national title, knocking off Joe
Williams, who had placed fourth at the '99 worlds, in the finals
and earning the meet's outstanding wrestler award.

"I love Brandon's all-out fight on the mat," said Kevin Jackson,
a 1992 Olympic gold medalist and now a coach at the training
center, last weekend, "but what I like most of all is the
intelligence he shows."

In the first match against Dolph on Saturday, Slay worked like a
chess master for more than three minutes to set up a double-leg
snatch and gain the advantage. He won his second match on
strength, bulldozing Dolph for a double-leg takedown. Afterward
Slay saluted the crowd as God Loves Texas blasted from the
arena's speakers.

"This is the best feeling in life, so far," Slay said, "but I
expect to get an even better feeling Down Under in
September." --David Fleming

U.S. Diving Trials
A Case of Sydney Stones

Talk about degree of difficulty. At 2 a.m. last Thursday, 17
hours before he was to compete in the finals of the men's
three-meter springboard at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Federal
Way, Wash., Troy Dumais, 20, was admitted to St. Francis
Hospital, trying to pass a large kidney stone. "I felt like my
whole side was exploding," he says.

To make matters worse, Dumais, a point off the lead after
Wednesday's semifinals, had to tell doctors not to administer the
usual narcotic given to patients in his condition, because it was
on the IOC's banned list. Instead he was hooked up to an IV bag,
received an injection of a nonsteroidal painkiller and, after
passing a stone into his bladder, sent on his way at 4 a.m.
Thirteen painful hours later he was back in the hospital, trying
to excrete the stone. Instead he passed a second stone, or a
fragment of the first, into his bladder and arrived at the
Weyerhaeuser Aquatic Center 45 minutes before the competition. In
the stands his parents, Kathy and Marc, and 28 other supporters
in light blue shirts that read DUMAIS DIVING had no clue about
his illness. "I didn't want my mom to freak," said Dumais, who at
week's end had still not excreted any stones, "so only my brother
Justin knew."

Justin is one of four Dumais siblings who followed Troy into
diving after his parents chose it as an outlet for Troy's
hyperactivity. One teacher suspected that Troy suffered from
attention deficit disorder and suggested that his parents put
him on Ritalin. Instead they put him on diving boards.

Justin, 21, would finish 13th in the springboard, but Troy,
despite his ordeal, remained in a battle with Mark Ruiz and
David Pichler for the two Olympic springboard berths. With one
dive left on Thursday, Dumais hit an inward 2 1/2 piked for
8.5's, apparently enough to make Ruiz the odd man out. But Ruiz,
who had come from seventh place to win the three- and 10-meter
titles at the nationals in April, hit a reverse 3 1/2 with a 1/2
twist tucked for a 9.5 average to vault into the lead. With
Dumais on the bubble, Pichler needed only 6's to make the team
but over-rotated his final dive and fell to fourth. Ruiz and
Dumais, childhood pals, embraced as Pichler slumped against a
wall. "We told each other a year ago we were going to make the
Olympic team together," said Dumais, whose efforts to keep his
side of the bargain gave new meaning to the word trials.
--Brian Cazeneuve

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER READ MILLER Me and Mrs. Jones Torri Edwards (10) finished second in the 100 meters to Marion Jones, who wore her new Swift Suit for the first time in competition at the Prefontaine Classic (page 76). [Leading Off] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY AL TIELEMANS Making the Cut Joe Williams (in blood red) beat Sean Harrington in the 167.5-pound class at the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials in Dallas (page 78). [Leading Off] COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Szabo (33), unbeaten since 1998, caught Favor Hamilton at the line to win the year's fastest 1,500. COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL The tenacious Slay (right) beat Dolph twice to become the first Olympic wrestler from Texas. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN FROSCHAUER/AP Despite a mid-meet bout with kidney stones, Dumais held on to his Olympic dream.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)