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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Forget George Foreman, How About Mary Slaney?

March 04, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

What a strange trip for Mary Slaney, and I'm not talking about the one that cost her the best chance she'll ever have for an Olympic gold medal. That was in 1984, when she and Zola Budd got their feet tangled at the Coliseum.

Twenty-five years, 53 U.S. and world records and seemingly as many leg, ankle and foot operations after she first appeared in the Sunkist Invitational at the Sports Arena as a pigtailed 13-year-old, Slaney, 38, again has emerged as the talk of the track and field world.

For instance, a fax arrived Monday from the International Amateur Athletic Federation declaring her the "firm favorite" in the 1,500 meters at this weekend's world indoor championships in Paris.

Who, with perhaps the exception of George Foreman, has endured for a quarter of a century?

A cynic would suggest there are as few contenders for greatness in Slaney's sport these days as in Foreman's. That is arguable, but it doesn't diminish her recent accomplishments.

Last month, she won the Millrose Games mile at Madison Square Garden in 4:26.67 seconds, the fastest time by a woman in three years. Last week, she won the 1,500 at the U.S. indoor championships in Atlanta in 4:03.08, the fastest time by a woman in seven years.

"I feel like my old self again," Slaney said.

She also sounds like her old, driven self. The mother of a 10-year-old, she doesn't travel the world as she once did in pursuit of goals. But, not content merely to contend for the 1,500 title in Paris, she said she is eyeing the world indoor record of 4:00.27 set in 1990 by Romania's Doina Melinte.

"At the moment, I feel I could run under four minutes," she said.

With Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee in semi-retirement and Michael Johnson resting, the sport is fortunate to have her back at the top. Or at least running in that direction.

*

The artist formerly known as Sugar Ray Leonard said he injured his right calf a couple of weeks before that embarrassing loss Saturday, but tell me how that affected his chin. . . .

Leonard was known for taking punches from some of the sport's hard hitters, guys like Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. Now he gets stopped in the fifth round by Hector Camacho, whose punch is little more than a rumor. . . .

I'd say it was a sad way for Leonard to end his career if he hadn't walked away with $4 million. . . .

Where is Robert Horry when you need him? Somebody should have thrown Camacho a towel when he stripped to his bare essentials during the weigh-in. . . .

Now that the Big 'Cap is history, the next big race in Arcadia is the April 5 Santa Anita Derby. Keep an eye on Sharp Cat, who probably will be entered if she runs well in Sunday's Santa Anita Oaks . . . .

Only two fillies in 57 years have won both Santa Anita's Oaks and Derby. The last was Winning Colors in 1988. She went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Like Sharp Cat, she was trained by Wayne Lukas. . . .

Now that the Nissan Open is history, Southern California's next golf tournament of note is the Toshiba Senior Classic, March 14-16, at Newport Beach Country Club. . . .

Arnold Palmer, close to returning after surgery for prostate cancer, has until today's deadline to commit. Tournament director Bob Neely walked a course two weeks ago in West Palm Beach, Fla., with Palmer, who told him he would like to play, health permitting, as a warmup for his Bay Hill Invitational the next week. . . .

Silencing the critics, GolfWatch at Riviera, which provided $1,500 express lanes for well-heeled spectators, was hardly a nuisance to other gallery members. To the contrary, it was hardly noticeable. . . .

It's folly but fun to try to outguess the NCAA tournament committee. Besides UCLA and Arizona, I'm guessing California is in with a split this week at home against the Arizona schools. . . .

That leaves one more spot, at most, for the Pacific 10. USC gets it with a sweep at the Washington schools. Anything less leaves the door open for Stanford. . . .

Troy Glaus had a good weekend for UCLA's baseball team, going six for 12 with four home runs and nine RBIs as the No. 1 Bruins went 3-0 in a Minneapolis tournament. . . .

Stacey Nuveman had a better one for UCLA's softball team, going 15 for 22 with six home runs and 20 RBIs as the No. 3 Bruins went 7-0 in a tournament in San Diego.

*

While wondering if Adam Oates would report to Washington if he gets to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, I was thinking: Stephane Fiset's back must be sore from carrying so much of the Kings' load, Nick Van Exel couldn't be the captain of my team, Byron Scott could be.

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