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Foster Overcomes a Nemesis, May Get a Shot at Another

May 18, 1986|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

Greg Foster set a world record Saturday in the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA's Drake Stadium. His winning time of 13.27 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles was the fastest time ever run in the event during daylight hours on a May 17.

It may not mean much in the overall scheme of the world, even in the world of track and field, but it's good for Foster to know that there's at least one outdoor record that Renaldo Nehemiah doesn't have.

That doesn't mean that Nehemiah, the world record-holder, won't come back to get it. After leaving the sport three years ago to play for the San Francisco 49ers, Nehemiah became a free agent last week.

The 49ers offered him a contract Thursday, then withdrew it the next day because they said his agent, Ron Stanko, was asking for too much money.

If Nehemiah can't reach an agreement with the 49ers or any other team, and if the international powers that be in track and field reinstate him this summer, he could be running the high hurdles again as early as next year.

When asked about that possibility Saturday, Foster said he hasn't given it much thought.

No thought, actually.

"I don't know anything about it," he said.

His thoughts Saturday were dominated by another nemesis, Roger Kingdom.

Because Nehemiah was running past defensive backs instead of over hurdles, Foster was supposed to win the high hurdles at the 1984 Summer Olympics. But he had a bad start and finished second to Kingdom.

They met three more times that summer, Foster winning twice. The only time Kingdom won besides the Olympics was when Foster couldn't get out of the blocks in a meet at Cologne.

But because of his gold medal, Kingdom was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1984. Foster was No. 2.

Kingdom remained on top, one place ahead of Foster in 1985, when they didn't meet outdoors.

"I want my No. 1 ranking back," said Foster, who was ranked first in 1982 and 1983. "I miss it."

If his performance in the Pepsi Invitational is any indication, he will be No. 1 this year. Even though he stumbled out of the blocks and hit the first hurdle, Foster began to pull away from Kingdom and Tonie Campbell, the 1985 Grand Prix and World Cup champion, after the seventh hurdle on his way to the fastest time in the world this year.

Kingdom moved ahead of Campbell with 20 meters to go and ran a 13.40. Campbell finished third in 13.47.

As for Kingdom, he was just happy to be here.

Off to an exceptional start in 1985, when he won nine straight races, he pulled a hamstring last July in Nice, France, and has rehabilitated gradually.

Last February, he finished fifth in his qualifying heat at the U.S. Olympic Invitational at the Meadowlands and decided to retire for the remainder of the indoor season. He has run outdoors twice since then, winning for the first time this year at Modesto last weekend, with a time of 13.48.

Kingdom said Saturday he may concede this year to Foster. Kingdom said he will run in the Bruce Jenner Invitational on May 31 at San Jose and in the Mobil/TAC national championships next month at Eugene, Ore., before deciding whether to compete this summer in Europe or sit out the rest of the year.

"This is an off year for me," he said. "After being out for 10 months, it takes time to get your rhythm back.

"Last year was excellent. I just knew that I could turn on my speed at any point in the race. This year, I haven't been able to do that.

"But I love to compete. So many people have told me that it's not doing me any good to come out here when I know I'm not going to win, but that's not me. Even if I'm hurt, I still want to be out there."

Kingdom said he was encouraged by his performance Saturday.

"That will keep me motivated," he said. "It lets me know that I'm not totally out of it yet."

As Kingdom was leaving Europe last year with the hamstring injury, Foster was just arriving. He missed the early part of the summer because of a family tragedy. Three members of his family, including his mother, were killed in an automobile accident outside of Chicago.

Foster won his last five races in Europe, then had an excellent indoor season last winter until he injured his hamstring at the national championships in February.

"I was nervous about how it would feel today," Foster said Saturday. "But I knew if it held up today, it would hold up for the rest of the year. I think this is going to be my year."

But even if it's not, the record books will show that May 17 was his day.

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