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SPORTS EXTRA: SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Track & Field

With the Greene-Johnson Rivalry Slightly Hamstrung, Jones May Overshadow the Men in Her Drive for Five

September 10, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

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* OVERVIEW--Unlike the women's competition, in which Marion Jones' quest for five gold medals figures to be the prevailing theme, there is no dominant man in Sydney's track and field competition.

Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson had chances to play that role, with Greene favored in the 100 meters and Johnson in the 400 and their much-anticipated duel in the 200 determining who would emerge as the sport's alpha dog.

But that prospect ended in the U.S. Olympic trials with the "double hammy whammy," both Johnson and Greene collapsing on the track in the 200 final because of hamstring cramps.

Each should still win two gold medals, Greene in the 100 and 400 relay and Johnson in the 400 and 1,600 relay. But no one with the possible exception of Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie, who would be favored in the 5,000 and 10,000 if he unexpectedly decided to enter both, has a chance to win more than one individual event.

The theme here is depth. Remarkably, there are 14 world-record holders entered in 20 events. Most are favored, including Greene in the 100, Johnson in the 400, Denmark's Wilson Kipketer in the 800, Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj in the 1,500, Gebrselassie in the 5,000 or 10,000, Kenya's Bernard Barmasai in the steeplechase, Cuba's Javier Sotomayor in the high jump, Great Britain's Jonathan Edwards in the triple jump, Czech Republic's Jan Zelezny in the javelin throw and compatriot Tomas Dvorak in the decathlon.

Virtual locks are El Guerrouj, unless he trips as he did in the Atlanta final, and Dvorak, who could become the first decathlete to surpass 9,000 points. That's his only challenge after Dan O'Brien, the former world-record holder, withdrew from the U.S. trials because of an injury.

Sotomayor, history's only eight-foot high jumper, might be the most vulnerable of the record-holders, having recently returned from a year off imposed by international track and field officials after he tested positive for cocaine at the Pan American Games.

* OTHERS TO WATCH--World-record holders who aren't favored include Great Britain's Colin Jackson in the 110 high hurdles and Ukraine's Sergei Bubka in the pole vault.

A couple of Americans, Mark Crear or Allen Johnson, look to be the best in the hurdles, and Russia's Maksim Tarasov is the clear favorite in the pole vault after American record-holder Jeff Hartwig failed to clear a height in the U.S. trials because of difficulties with his contact lenses. Bubka, 36, has won six World Championships but only one Olympic gold medal and doesn't figure to get another here after undergoing tendon surgery twice in the last three years.

World-record holders who are favored will still face some solid challengers, such as Canada's Bruny Surin, Trinidad and Tobago's Ato Boldon and Barbados' Obadele Thompson in the 100, Switzerland's Andre Bucher and South Africa's Hezekiel Sepeng in the 800, Russia's Vyacheslav Voronin in the high jump, Germany's Charles-Michael Friedek in the triple jump and Greece's Kostas Gatsioudis in the javelin throw. Greene and Boldon are training partners in Westwood.

A longshot to watch is Brazil's Sanderlei Parela in the 400, which is supposed to be owned by Michael Johnson. But he has looked overweight and sluggish since returning from his injury in the U.S. trials.

Even without Johnson and Greene in the 200, there will still be a race. Boldon, Thompson, Namibia's Frankie Fredericks and Brazil's Claudinei Da Silva figure to contend.

If Gebrselassie chooses to run only the 10,000, as he has indicated, the 5,000 contenders would include Mohammed Mourhit, a Moroccan who runs for Belgium. That's not so unusual. Kipketer is a Kenyan who runs for Denmark, and U.S. 10,000 champion Mebrahtom Keflezighi is from Eritrea.

* BEST STORY--Take your pick. Alvin and Calvin Harrison, 26, are the first twins to earn berths on a U.S. Olympic track team, while shotputter C.J. Hunter would like nothing better than to bring home a sixth gold medal from Sydney for his family. His wife is Marion Jones.

Alvin Harrison already has one gold medal, running the second leg for the triumphant U.S. 1,600 relay team in Atlanta. He returns to the Olympics in the 400, having finished second in the trials to Michael Johnson, and in the 1,600 relay, in which he will be joined this time by brother Calvin. He is an alternate on the team after finishing fifth in the 400 in the trials.

Only five years ago, the brothers were homeless, living together in a Ford Mustang coupe for three months in Salinas, Calif.

"That wasn't such a bad situation, not as bad as people think," Calvin says.

Or is it Alvin? They so closely resemble each other that U.S. Coach John Chaplin often confuses them. They once attended each other's classes at North Salinas High without being caught. When he wants to be recognized, Calvin wears earrings shaped in the letter C.

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