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Dream Comes True for Southland Shotputter : Jim Doehring Almost Lost His Life in Newport Beach Motorcycle Accident

July 16, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Seven years ago, when he was 19, Jim Doehring was the U.S. junior champion in the shotput and he was looking forward to the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, near his home in San Clemente.

Within days, he was in the hospital with three steel rods in his back, wondering whether he would ever compete again.

While riding his motorcycle in Newport Beach, he collided with a pickup truck and, according to a witness, was thrown about 100 feet, breaking his jaw in several places and his back.

"This witness saw blood coming out of my mouth and blood coming out of my ears, and he thought I was dead," Doehring said.

Doehring knew better, but he had to work at it.

"All I was thinking about was, 'Keep breathing, keep breathing.' "

Doehring was forced to take one year off, 1982, and did not begin to fulfill his promise until three years later, one year after the Los Angeles Olympics, in his final season at San Jose State.

Friday night, he earned his berth on the U.S. Olympic team. It came four years later than he had hoped, but he was no less thrilled.

"To be where I was and to be where I am today is a miracle," he said. "It's a dream come true. All of my prayers have been answered."

He prayed loudest after the fifth of his six throws, 67 feet 8 inches, moved him into third place, one centimeter ahead of Ron Backes. The first three finishers would be on the Olympic team.

Doehring then had to wait to see whether any of the seven throwers remaining in the competition passed him in the final round.

"I was holding my breath," he said.

Doehring, who lives in Fallbrook--north San Diego County--is the latest of many Olympic track and field athletes produced by San Jose State. He also could be the last. School officials announced this year they are dropping the sport.

Doehring said his former coach, Mike Weeks, lost his job and is now self-employed as a cabinet maker.

The winner of the shotput, Randy Barnes of College Station, Tex., bristled when told that another competitor, Augie Wolf, said that the 6-foot 4-inch, 290-pound Barnes is effective because of brute strength instead of technique.

"I don't know where he's coming from," said Barnes, whose winning throw Friday of 71-9 1/2 was an Olympic trials record. "I think my technique is better than his. I don't even understand the man so I can't comment on what he says."

But there is no question that brute strength has something to do with Barnes' success.

Asked how large he was in the eighth grade in his hometown of South Charleston, West Va., Barnes, 22, said: "I flunked the eighth grade. The second time around, I weighed 250."

Failing to qualify for the high jump finals was Dwight Stones, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and a three-time Olympian. Needing to clear 7-5 to advance, he went over the bar at 7-1 1/2 and then missed three times at 7-2 1/2.

Stones, 34, was still seething afterwards about a decision this week by The Athletics Congress (TAC), the national governing body for track and field. He jumped 7-5 last Friday at Ambassador College, meeting the qualifying standard to get into the trials, but TAC ruled that the meet was not official because the high jump was the only event. So he had to clear 7-5 again Monday in an all-comers meet at Cal State Northridge.

He didn't use that as an excuse for his performance here, but he did feel it was an unnecessary distraction.

"Now, they (TAC officials) think they are finally rid of me," said Stones, who lives in Irvine. "But I'm only beginning to be in their shorts as a politician. What they did to me this week, that ended it. It's total war.

"Many athletes who are getting worked over by TAC don't have the platform to make their complaints heard. I do."

Even though he did not make the U.S. Olympic team, Stones will be going to Seoul as a commentator for NBC.

Other notables failing to make the Olympic team included:

--Brian Oldfield, 43, was among the final 12 in the shotput, but his best throw of 62-8 3/4 in the final did not place him among the final eight.

--Ron Brown, who quit the Rams as a wide receiver this year to prove that he was still among the world's best sprinters, made it through the first round in the 100 meters by running 10.47 seconds but not the second. He finished fifth in his quarterfinal heat with a 10.26 and did not advance to today's semifinals.

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