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He's a Throwback

Setliff Rebounds From Injuries to Make Olympic Team in the Discus

September 13, 2000|DARIN ESPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VALENCIA — Discus thrower Adam Setliff is back, better than ever.

After missing the 1999 season with injuries, during which he wrote a screenplay, the 30-year-old bounced back by setting a career best of 224 feet, 9 inches in March and won the Olympic trials in July to earn his second trip to the Olympic Games.

Setliff moved to Valencia in 1996 after landing the role of world-record discus thrower Mac Wilkins in the movie "Without Limits," which told the story of distance runner Steve Prefontaine.

"I was very interested in coming out and exploring that world of film," Setliff said. "Southern California is a nice place to train, so that wasn't going to be a problem."

Setliff, who has filed several change-of-address forms with the postal service, attended Rice University as a premed student from 1988-90 before transferring to Washington--where Wilkins was an assistant coach--in 1991.

"Rice just had abysmal support for anyone who was interested in training above and beyond what was required to maintain a scholarship," Setliff said. "Training for me is a cleansing process. It's like a daily getting rid of demons for me."

He attended Washington for two years, but left school 12 units shy of an English degree, moving with his wife, Tricia, to live with his mother in Nebraska.

"I [left school] because of my overwhelming desire to leave Seattle and never see it again," Setliff said. "The weather was oppressive, it was literally sending me into a mental hole."

Setliff lost 65 pounds in seven months, won the Olympic Festival, finished fourth in the national championships, improved his career best to 213-1 and was ranked fourth in the nation by Track & Field News.

That was when Setliff realized he could compete internationally.

"I realized that there was another level of work and training, and I found it," Setliff said.

Before his breakthrough year, Setliff had twice considered quitting.

In 1991, Setliff became frustrated with his schooling and his throwing, and lost confidence.

"I thought the coaches at Rice had no long-term plan," Setliff said. "I was losing, and I felt like a loser, and school was not going that well."

He started training for fun, ended up throwing 60 meters and qualifying for the national team.

In 1994, Setliff again became frustrated. This time, he called Wilkins for advice and was told to lose weight.

The association with Wilkins led to Setliff's foray into acting.

"[Filmmaker Robert Towne] was talking to Mac about not finding someone for the 'Without Limits' role," Setliff said. "Mac said that he knew someone who could do it and recommended me."

Setliff found he was pigeon-holed as an actor because of his 6-4, 270-pound physique. He did three bit roles and three commercials before deciding to focus on writing.

Setliff used to write short stories about his adventures growing up in the mountains of Wyoming.

In 1999, Setliff was diagnosed with a torn fascia muscle and a condition known as Osteitis Pubis--which is constant severe muscular pain in the groin.

"It feels like you've been torn asunder in your pubis," he said. "In a way, you have a lot of things that become painful to do, such as walking, sneezing and moving your legs. It's really nasty and extremely difficult to get diagnosed. It took months."

The torn fascia was corrected by surgery in July, while the Osteitis Pubis requires Setliff to watch his diet and stay flexible by doing abdominal exercises.

"There's a lot of people who have it who are very frustrated," Setliff said. "The people who get it tend to be postpartum mothers or athletes involved in sports that involve twisting, rotating motions at high speeds."

Setliff began his first screenplay, which he said is reflective of the dark place he was in at the time.

"I was feeling extremely isolated from everything I had established in my own life," Setliff said. "Because my life had crumbled and I couldn't do what I had devoted my entire life to, in a way it became kind of like an exercise in fantasy about someone who refrained from taking their own life because they didn't have the energy to do it."

According to Setliff, the few people he showed the screenplay to wondered why the lead character felt he had no stake in his existence, so he began another one that "wasn't such a downer."

For Setliff, the writing is more than therapeutic.

"It's sort of like the discus throw," Setliff said. "It's something I would do for no money, so I'm trying to find out if I can do it for money."

Setliff resumed training in January and was back in competition by March, uncorking his career best at La Jolla on March 25.

"I feel as good as I ever felt, in fact better than I ever felt, so we'll find out what that's worth."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

PROFILE

ADAM SETLIFF

Age: 30

Birthplace: El Dorado, Ark.

Residence: Valencia

High school: Dallas Bell

College: Rice, Washington

Honors: Won the 2000 Olympic trials and finished second in 1998 U.S. championships. Was third in the 1996 Olympic trials. Ranked No. 4 in world in 1998 and No. 2 in U.S. from 1996-98. Was an All-American at Washington and a Texas high school champion his senior year. Played former world-record holding discus thrower Mac Wilkins in motion picture "Without Limits" about Steve Prefontaine.

*

SYDNEY SCHEDULE

What: Men's discus

When: Sept. 24-25

Where: Sydney Olympic Stadium

Qualifying: Sept. 24; Top 12 advance to final on Sept. 25

Medal Favorites: Vrigilijus Alekna of Lithuania, Lars Reidel of Germany, Vladimir Dubrovshchik of Belarus, Frantz Kruger of South Africa and Anthony Washington of United States.

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