Inside Olympic Sports

October 30, 2000

Reborn in The U.S.A.
In his first marathon as an American, Morocco-born Khalid
Khannouchi won Chicago in U.S.-record time

Upon crossing the finish line first in Sunday's Chicago
Marathon, Khalid Khannouchi was greeted by his wife, Sandra, who
wrapped him in a U.S. flag, symbolic of the American citizenship
the Morocco-born Khalid won on May 2. Then Khalid dropped to his
knees, gently put the flag aside, turned toward Mecca and kissed
the ground as four soundly beaten Kenyans crossed the line
behind him. A new era has dawned in U.S. marathoning.

Khannouchi, 28, who has lived in America for seven years, became
the first U.S. runner to win a major international marathon since
Greg Meyer won Boston in 1983. Khannouchi--who, according to race
director Carey Pinkowski, earned an estimated $500,000 in prize
and appearance money and performance incentives--dropped Kenyans
Josephat Kiprono and Moses Tanui in the final two miles and
finished in 2:07:01, the second-fastest time in the world in
2000. (That clocking also becomes the U.S. record, obliterating
David Morris's 2:09:32 from last year.) Khannouchi, who set the
world mark of 2:05:42 last fall in Chicago, has now run three of
history's 18 fastest marathons. No other man has run two. "He's
got to be the best of all time," said Morris, who placed seventh
on Sunday.

Could he also raise American marathoning from what Rod DeHaven,
the only U.S. entrant in the 2000 Olympic marathon, called "the
bottom of the barrel" before Sunday's race? On one hand,
Khannouchi dedicated Sunday's victory to his new country. On the
other hand, he said before the race that his success still owes
much to the training methods he learned in Morocco. "The guy
trains his butt off," says DeHaven.

It remains to be seen whether, by inspiration or by example,
Khannouchi can lift the level of performance in his adopted
country. Chicago offered hope with a minirevival of sorts in U.S.
marathoning. The 30-year-old Morris (2:12:00) finished in the top
10 for the second straight year (he was fourth in 1999); he was
followed by Eric Mack, 26, in eighth place at 2:12:42 and Josh
Cox, 25, in 10th at 2:13:55.

More than the Khannouchi factor was at work. Cox, whose Chicago
time was a personal best by nearly six minutes, is one of nine
U.S. runners training under Italian coach Gabriele Rosa in a $1
million program sponsored by shoe and apparel company Fila. After
undergoing physiological testing and interviews with Fila in
July, the runners moved to a training camp at 6,000 feet in Mount
Laguna, Calif., east of San Diego. Fila plans soon to tab 40 more
runners, ages 16 to 20, to join the program, which is called
Discovery USA. Working with Rosa, who has trained many top
Kenyans, has been "the opportunity of a lifetime," says Cox.

The Fila group isn't alone. Stanford cross-country and track
coach Vin Lananna is vastly improving the postgraduate Farm Team
program in Palo Alto, Calif. An elite group is training in
Boulder, Colo., too. Other U.S. marathoners, such as Mack and
Morris, train alone but use far more demanding programs than
traditional U.S. methods. "You're going to see improvement," says
DeHaven. "It might be closer to 10 years than two or three, but
it will happen."

If you count Khannouchi, which you should, it already has.

Former Olympians in the Tent
The Five-Ring Circus

You're a recently retired Olympic athlete who still longs for the
roar of the crowd. Your limbs are oak, your spine bends like
Silly Putty, and your internal clock still wakes you at dawn so
you can stretch. What do you do? Fabrice Becker is the man you
should see.

Becker, a 29-year-old Frenchman, was a gold medalist in ballet
freestyle skiing, a demonstration sport at the 1992 Winter Games.
Now his life is a circus. Becker is a talent scout for the
Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, a hip, hyperathletic blend of
circus arts and street entertainment that debuted in 1984 and has
grown to comprise seven distinct shows that can be seen in North
America, the Far East, Europe and Australia. Sixteen former
Olympians from 10 countries are among Cirque's 500 performers.

Becker returned from the Sydney Games with 20 hours of videotape
of diving, gymnastics, trampoline and synchronized swimming. By
then P.J. Bogart and Tracy Bonner, divers recruited by Becker
after they missed Olympic berths at the U.S. trials in June, were
in Montreal training to join "O", Cirque's Las Vegas water show
that premiered in 1998. The opening act begins with several sets
of feet sticking out of the water, including those of Suzannah
Bianco, Becky Dyroen-Lancer and Jill Smith, all of whom won gold
medals on the U.S. synchro team at the '96 Summer Games.

Smith had never heard of Cirque when, in 1997, her sister,
Jennifer, dragged her to see the company's show Mystere in San
Francisco. Within months Jill had coaxed her husband, Jason, to
move to Las Vegas so she could join the show. "When you're into
it, you can feel everything inside," she says. "I want to hang on
to that as long as I can."

Says Sylvie Frechette, a Canadian synchro swimmer who won a gold
medal in 1992 and now choreographs for "O", "Even when you are
finished with competing, it doesn't mean you are finished
creating." --Brian Cazeneuve

Ring Notebook
Paralympics Test Positive

Last Friday, on the third day of the 2000 Paralympics, IOC
president Juan Antonio Samaranch held a press conference in
Sydney's Olympic Stadium with Robert Steadward, the Canadian who
heads the International Paralympic Committee, to announce a
"memorandum of understanding" that made Steadward a full IOC
member and paved the way for a unified governing body for the
Olympics and the Paralympics. Alas, the most newsworthy link
between the two Games that emerged from the first week of the
Paralympics was word that six powerlifters tested positive for
performance-enhancing drugs. Four of the athletes received
four-year suspensions after hearings last Saturday. The other
two faced hearings on Sunday....

A happier example of performance-enhancing: Lornah Kiplagat of
Kenya, women's runner-up in Sunday's Chicago Marathon, has put
up $200,000 and secured a contribution from her sponsor,
Saucony, to establish a training camp for Kenyan women runners.
Kiplagat intends for the camp, based in Iten, Kenya, to help
more than two dozen women not only with their running but also
with job skills and self-sufficiency. "If they don't succeed at
running," says Kiplagat, "they'll still learn something."

COLOR PHOTO: RALF-FINN HESTOFT/SABA Khannouchi surged over the final two miles to win for the third time in four starts in the Windy City. COLOR PHOTO: JOAN MARCUS The inventive physicality of Cirque du Soleil gives Olympians a leg up on post-Games jobs.

U.S. Marathoners: Going Back in Time

Sunday's resounding Chicago Marathon victory by Khalid Khannouchi
(page 74), the Moroccan-born world-record holder, serves to
underscore the dismaying decline of U.S. men's marathoning from
the early 1980s until Khannouchi became an American citizen in
April. Here's a look at where the fastest American men stood in
relation to the world's fastest runners in recent Olympic years,
along with the number of U.S. marathoners who broke 2:15 in that
year.

U.S. LEADER U.S. SUB
YEAR WORLD LEADER (PLACE ON WORLD LIST) 2:15 RUNNERS

1980 Gerard Nijboer Alberto Salazar, 24
(Netherlands), 2:09:41 (2)
2:09:01

1984 Steve Jones Ken Martin, 24
(Great Britain), 2:11:24 (26)
2:08:05

1988 Belaine Densimo Mark Conover, 8
(Ethiopia), 2:12:26 (not in top 50)
2:06:50

1992 David Tsebe Steve Spence, 2:12:43 11
(South Africa), (not in top 50)
2:08:07

1996 Martin Fiz, Jerry Lawson, 9
(Spain) 2:10:04 (27)
2:08:25

2000 (through Sunday)
Antonio Pinto Khannouchi, 4
(Portugal), 2:07:01 (2)
2:06:36

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)