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With the End in Sight : Andersen's Staggering Finish in 1984 Women's Marathon a Haunting Image

Seoul '88: Countdown 5 Days

September 12, 1988|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

Gabriela Andersen was running for Switzerland in the Los Angeles Olympics, but she also had U.S. citizenship. She lives in Ketchum, Ida., with her husband, Dick, who is active in the ski industry there.

Ever since her Olympic marathon, Andersen has said repeatedly in interviews that too much was made of her last-lap difficulty.

"Those things happen often in marathons, and not much is normally made of it," she said in a recent phone interview. "Anyone familiar with the sport will tell you that. It was really blown up too much.

"It was my misfortune to have trouble in the Olympics. And it bothers me somewhat that people will always remember that race, because I've had some good races in my running career."

On the day of her Olympic race--the first women's marathon in Olympic history--U.S. runner Julie Brown, who passed Andersen near the end, said: "Other women had problems in the race, too. . . . People should focus on that. (Andersen) didn't want to quit. She took it to the limit."

Andersen has some credentials as a long distance runner, but she will probably always be remembered as "that woman who almost keeled over at the L.A. Olympics."

She has been named a masters runner of the year by the Road Runners of America Club. Her personal marathon best, 2 hours 33 minutes 25 seconds, run in 1983, ranked her 97th on the all-time woman's list at the end of 1987.

On the day of her near-collapse in Los Angeles, she ran 2:48:42.

She was a skier and then a ski instructor before she ever ran in a foot race, and then not until she was 26.

At 43, she's still running marathons. Recently, she finished third in a masters marathon at Sapporo, Japan.

A stubborn injury prevented her from training for the Seoul Olympics.

"I very much wanted to compete in Seoul, but I've had an Achilles tendon problem that's been going on for about a year," she said.

"It's OK now, but it bothered me for almost a year. It just wouldn't heal. I couldn't train hard on it. When I did, it would get worse. So I haven't done any serious running for nearly two years now."

Because of fears of another Andersen case in the future, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) adopted what is now known as the "Schiess Rule" for future Olympic marathons.

Rule 143, under the heading of "Assistance to Athletes," states: "For the purposes of this rule, the following shall not be considered unfair aid or assistance: 1. A hands-on medical exam during the progress of an event by medical personnel designated by the organizing committee."

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