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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Harrison, Devers Will Never Forget Golden Anniversary

Track and field: He wins triple jump and sets Olympic record as fiancee is earning her second title in 100 meters.

July 28, 1996|MIKE DOWNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Kenny Harrison's fiancee, an athlete herself whose name might ring a bell, Gail Devers, had one request before Saturday's action in Olympic track and field.

While I'm on the track, Devers said, don't you be on the field.

She wanted to watch him. He wanted to watch her.

So, what did they see?

Devers won the women's 100-meter dash.

Harrison won the men's triple jump.

Bringing new meaning to the term previous engagement, while Harrison waited for his triple-jump competition to end, Devers was crossing her finish line and then circling Centennial Olympic Stadium on her victory lap.

Shortly thereafter, 1992 Barcelona gold medalist Mike Conley of the United States fouled on his final attempt, finishing in fourth place, giving Harrison his first Olympic medal of any color.

He also broke the Olympic and American records, with his leap of 59 feet 4 1/4 inches.

Actually, Harrison disobeyed Devers during her semifinal race, jumping at precisely the same time she ran.

"I told him, 'Don't you go out there on the runway while I'm on the track,' " Devers said.

"That's just what he did."

Harrison, 31, of Milwaukee, made only two successful jumps, fouling twice and passing twice. Yet, he still defeated:

--The world-record holder, Jonathan Edwards, the London vicar's son who once refused to compete on Sundays.

--The pride of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, young Yoelbi Quesada, who had placed sixth in the last Olympics at the age of 18.

--And Conley, the black-belt martial arts expert from Chicago who so loves watching the Bulls play basketball that his sons are named Michael and Jordan.

Favored for the gold by many in Great Britain, Edwards, 30, has seemed jumpy under so much pressure. He said of his silver medal, "I'm amazed at what I did, considering how I felt. It may be evaluated as a failure, but as far as I'm concerned, it was a great success."

He, Quesada and Conley fouled on their last two attempts.

"Kenny was jumping great," said Edwards, the only man to surpass 60 feet.

Kenny, whose actual first name is Kerry, went 59-0 1/4 on his first try, bettering Conley's Olympic record of 57-10 1/4. Harrison's winning jump came in the fourth round.

How the winner felt about his performance could not immediately be established, because Harrison declined to be interviewed. He and Devers, who evidently do everything together, accompanied each other to their doping tests.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

MEDALISTS / Track and Field

MEN'S 100

Gold: Donovan Bailey, Canada

Silver: Frank Fredericks, Namibia

Bronze: Ato Boldon, Trinidad

*

MEN'S TRIPLE JUMP

Gold: Kenny Harrison, U.S.

Silver: Jonathan Edwards, Britain

Bronze: Yoelbi Quesada, Cuba

*

WOMEN'S 100

Gold: Gail Devers, U.S.

Silver: Merlene Ottey, Jamaica

Bronze: Gwen Torrence, U.S.

*

WOMEN'S JAVELIN

Gold: Heli Rantanen, Finland

Silver: Louis McPaul, Australia

Bronze: Trine Hattestad, Norway

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