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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | TRACK AND FIELD

It's No Snap, but It's Quite a Toss

Hammer throw: Hungarian wins gold, but Deal takes silver to become first American to medal in sport in 40 years.

July 29, 1996|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Growing up as a tall, strong boy in Hungary, there was no doubt about what Balazs Kiss would do in athletics. Throw the hammer.

Halfway across the world, Lance Deal was a big kid growing up in Wyoming and there was little question about his sport. Football.

Kiss followed his national calling and Deal abandoned his, and each was rewarded for his decision in Sunday's Olympic hammer throw. Kiss, who attended USC, won the gold medal with a throw of 266 feet 6 inches, picking up Hungary's fourth gold medal in the event since World War II.

Deal barely made it to the finals but moved from sixth to second on his last throw. That effort, 266-2, was nearly good enough to win and it made Deal the first American medalist in the hammer in 40 years. Oleksiy Krykun of Russia won the bronze in 262-6.

Kiss was in first place after his first throw, but Deal fouled on his first two attempts. Each thrower has three attempts and then the top eight are allowed three more. Kiss built his lead with every throw and Deal stepped into the ring for his third throw under tremendous pressure to get off a legal throw. The throw, 252-5, was mediocre but it tied him for eighth, although Deal didn't know at first.

"The feeling I had after my third throw was that I failed, and I failed horribly," Deal said. "When I had my head in my hands, I heard the announcer say I was in the final. I said, 'I better go ask the official.' "

Not until his last attempt did Deal unleash a good throw.

"I was just hoping to be respectable," he said.

Kiss was merely hoping to calm down. He is staying with a family here and Saturday night his hosts were watching the finals of the men's and women's 100 meters on television. Kiss said he got so keyed up watching the competition that he had to leave the room and take antacid. He had overslept and spent much of the Sunday gulping coffee.

Deal, from Cheyenne, believes he and Casper native John Godina, who won the silver medal in the shotput, have sent a message to his football-mad state.

"When you're a big kid from Wyoming, you're supposed to play football," Deal said. "Not throw the discus or the shot. I think we're proving them wrong. Who got second in the shot?"

Deal threw the discus and put the shot in high school but discovered the hammer in his freshman year at Montana State, where he played football but quit because he kept getting injured. He went into a local sporting goods store, saw a hammer and thought it might be fun.

He honed his skill while competing at USC, where he won four NCAA titles.

Kiss said he will return in the fall to USC, where he is studying business. He loves L.A., even though he was mugged twice as a freshman.

"It's a jungle," he said. "You have to adapt."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

MEDALISTS

Track and Field

MEN'S HIGH JUMP

Gold: Charles Austin, United States

Silver: Artur Partyka, Poland

Bronze: Steve Smith, Britain

MEN'S HAMMER THROW

Gold: Balazs Kiss, Hungary

Silver: Lance Deal, United States

Bronze: Alexandr Krykun, Ukraine

WOMEN'S MARATHON

Gold: Fatuma Roba, Ethiopia

Silver: Valentina Yegorova

Bronze: Yuko Arimori, Japan

WOMEN'S 5,000

Gold: Wang Junxia, China

Silver: Pauline Konga, Kenya

Bronze: Roberta Bruney, Italy

WOMEN'S HEPTATHLON

Gold: Ghada Shouaa, Syria

Silver: Natasha Sazanovich, Belarus

Bronze: Denise Lewis, Britain

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