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Crear figures he can take gold in hurdles despite injury.


VALENCIA — Mark Crear does not expect strained abdominal muscles to prevent him from winning a gold medal in the 110-meter high hurdles in the Olympic Games at Sydney, Australia.

Crear--ranked No. 1 in the world three times by Track & Field News--believes the faith that allowed him to overcome the physical and mental pain he felt as an abused child will help him achieve one of the two championships that have eluded him.

"God has been my coach, and Jesus is my only drug, and it's worked this far," said Crear.

He won the NCAA championship in 1992 as a senior at USC, the Goodwill Games in 1998, is a three-time Grand Prix final winner and his career best of 12.98 seconds makes him the sixth fastest hurdler in history.

But Crear has not won a gold medal in the Olympics or the world championships.

"I really feel when I get on that plane to go to Sydney, I'm not coming back without a gold, if I have to become an Australian citizen," Crear said. "This is my time, and it's really going to make me appreciate it more and show people just how God works and show the power of Jesus Christ."

The injury--similar to one that plagued Shaquille O'Neal during the 1998-99 NBA season--struck two weeks before the Olympic trials late in July.

Crear has been undergoing ultrasound, electronic stimulation, laser, ice packs and heat packs while remaining in competition.

"No matter what I do, putting on a pair of pants to jogging or running, it hurts," Crear said. "It's right on the side of the lower abdominal area in a very sensitive spot, where you can't shoot it with any anesthesia."

He even uses the ab-cruncher machine at a local gymnasium, to the dismay of some other clients.

"Women come up to me and say: 'Excuse me sir, would you mind letting us have a chance to use the machine?' " said Crear, who won the silver medal in the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta while competing with a broken arm.

Crear has continued to train and compete, and finished second to two-time world champion and defending Olympic champion Allen Johnson at the trials with a clocking of 13.11.

"It's about going to the Olympics at 90% [of my physical health] but way sharp versus going to the Olympics healed but flat," Crear said of his decision to continue. "I just have to have faith that it's all a part of the plan, that God didn't bring me this far to drop me off."

Crear trains at College of the Canyons, where he serves as a volunteer assistant track coach.

He also volunteers with the Special Olympics and talks to students at local high schools.

"It's just a way of helping people," Crear said. "I don't like the phrase 'giving back,' because that implies that I got something."

Crear started hurdling as a junior at Rowland High in Rowland Heights, when Coach Frank Gerdine told him he looked like he should run track.

As a senior, Crear posted a best of 14.07 and finished fourth in the 1987 California state meet at 14.15.

"At that age, I didn't know where I was going," Crear said. "When he said, 'Go out for track,' I was thinking girls in tights.

"I fell in love with the hurdles, something nobody could take away from me. They kind of remind me of obstacles in life, sometimes you fall, but you get up and keep going because if you focus on the one you just hit you will hit the next one."

While attending high school, Crear connected with his biological father, a minister, and recommitted to his journey of faith.

"I remember prior to age 7, praying then, then when I met my father at 16, he reminded me and reconfirmed my walk with Christ," Crear said.

Crear then attended Mt. San Antonio College, and ran 14.11 as a freshman despite a groin injury. He ran 14.07 as a sophomore, attracting a scholarship offer from USC coach Jim Bush.

Bush placed Crear under the tutelage of John Smith and Clem Jackson, and Crear placed third in the NCAA championships as a junior in 1990 with a clocking of 13.65.

Crear sat out 1991 with a strained groin, but ran 13.33 as a senior and finished the year ranked sixth in the world, despite failing to qualify for the Olympic team.

Crear graduated with a degree in sociology and retained Jackson as his coach.

He had a breakthrough year in 1994. Crear dropped his best to 13.07 and was ranked third in the world.

The success continued in 1995, despite Johnson's arrival on the international hurdling scene. Crear won six Grand Prix meets, including the final, to finish first in the Grand Prix standings, lowered his best to 13.02 and was ranked first in the world.

Despite the success, Crear severed his relationship with Jackson in January, 1996. Instead of hiring another coach, Crear retained Tonie Campbell, a former Trojan hurdler, as his agent.

"There are very few coaches available at this high level who look at you as a person instead of as an object," Crear said.

"When I left Clem, it was like a test. All throughout life there were tests, to see if I would quit, sell out or turn to drugs. Then I sat down and prayed and turned to Christ."

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