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Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational : Foster Crosses First Hurdles With Ease--13.19 Seconds

June 11, 1989|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

Greg Foster was being interviewed after winning the 110-meter hurdles at the McDonald's/Jackie Joyner-Kersee track and field meet Saturday at Drake Stadium when Olympic champion Roger Kingdom approached him.

In a friendly gesture, Kingdom put his hands on Foster's shoulders and said: "Man, it's been a long time since I've been thrashed like that."

Foster, making an impressive comeback after breaking his left arm again Jan. 31, convincingly beat a world-class field in 13.19 seconds.

Foster was slightly ahead of the field by the first hurdle, clearly in front by the second and in command the rest of the way.

Kingdom finished second in 13.28, and Jack Pierce was third in a personal-best time of 13.32.

Renaldo Nehemiah, the world record-holder at 12.93, was never a factor, finishing fifth in 13.67.

"I wanted to come close to my personal record (13.03)," Foster said, "but I knew it was going to be tough being my first time out. I wanted to attack the hurdles and I hit some of them, but I just kept going."

Foster said he hit the sixth, seventh, eighth and possibly the ninth hurdles, but he wasn't to be denied.

It was a stirring accomplishment for the one-time UCLA star. He suffered a broken left arm July 4 while training for the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials. Still, he competed gamely in the trials with a cast on his arm before he was eliminated.

Then in late January, he broke the same arm again in a basketball pickup game. He has two 12-inch plates in his arm as a result of his accidents.

"The arm only aches when I sleep on it the wrong way," Foster said, "or after I've been lifting weights."

Foster hasn't competed since an indoor race in Houston a week before he broke his left arm for the second time. However, he acknowledged that he was in superb condition.

"I concentrated today on myself from start to finish and I think I got out pretty good," Foster said. "I'm strong enough that I didn't think I'd have to worry about anyone pulling up on me if I had the lead going into the seventh hurdle."

There have been times when Foster might have faltered if challenged in the middle of a race. Not Saturday.

Said Kingdom: "I got a so-so start and I was kind of shell-shocked. I made my move at the fifth and sixth hurdles, but so did two other people (Foster and Pierce). I just couldn't catch 'em. It just wasn't there."

Kingdom, of course, caught Pierce but not Foster.

Kingdom said that he believes he always has an excellent chance to win if he's at least even with his competition by the fifth hurdle.

"But Greg just fought me off," he said.

As for being shell-shocked, Kingdom said: "During the indoor circuit, I was getting decent starts, but all I saw today were the backs of Greg and Jack, and I was chasing them through the first hurdle."

Foster reasons that he probably would have run faster if he hadn't hit some hurdles. But time seemingly wasn't a primary consideration for him.

"I was very nervous Thursday and I had a hard time sleeping," Foster said, "but I kept busy Friday and went to a movie with my son."

The title of the movie was appropriate for Foster's race: "No Holds Barred."

"I just wanted to run well," said Foster, 30, who won the high hurdles at the World Championships in 1983 and 1987 and was second to Kingdom in the 1984 Olympic Games at the Coliseum.

"I wasn't saying I was going to win. I just wanted to make a good showing."

Foster was asked if he thought that he'd made a statement to Kingdom, who was the gold medalist at Seoul last September.

"All in all, it was just one meet. It's not the last time I'll face Roger," he said.

Nonetheless, considering his bad luck the past year, it was a confidence-boosting performance. It was the first time that Foster, Kingdom and Nehemiah, three of the world's most-renowned hurdlers, have competed together outdoors.

Foster's 13.19 equaled the best time in the world this year, but the best, perhaps, is yet to come.

Nehemiah's world record has endured since 1981, but Kingdom said there is a chance it might be broken this year.

"I'm not saying it will go, but there's a possibility to get close to it," he said.

Later, he reconsidered and said: "He had to have wings to run that time. I've been below 13 twice (12.97 and 12.98) and even though I ran my tail off, I couldn't get the record."

Nehemiah, who was the world's best high hurdler before he opted to play for the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s, has struggled to regain his former status since returning to track in 1986. Injuries have hampered him, and he said his technique is flawed.

"This was only my second race this year, and I'm not in shape to run 13.1 or anything like that yet," Nehemiah said. "I need to improve my fitness. Technically, I did not run a good race today. My goal this year is just to improve on my performance."

It was 10 years ago on the UCLA track when the 19-year-old Nehemiah set a world record of 13 seconds flat, which he later lowered. Foster hit a hurdle in that race and didn't finish.

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