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Following Father's Tire Tracks

Marcelo Arrue of Woodland Hills learned cycling from one of the best, his dad.


Like most kids, Marcelo Arrue was taught by his father how to ride a bicycle. He learned from the best.

But it wasn't until Arrue was a teenager that he decided to strive to be the best. This week, he will have his chance to prove it.

Arrue, a 31-year-old Olympic track cyclist from Woodland Hills, will compete in several events at the Sydney Games this week, fulfilling a dream his father never realized.

Willie Arrue, a 10-time Chilean national sprint champion from 1962-71, never competed in the Olympics because of injuries. When Marcelo was 2, his father moved the family from its native Santiago to the San Fernando Valley after the government of Salvador Allende fell.

But "Chelly," as Marcelo is endearingly known to family, preferred soccer to cycling as a youth. Not until his father, a sports celebrity in South America, began to encourage him to try his legs at something different did Arrue consider cycling.

"I thought it was more exciting," he said.

He hasn't rued making the switch.

Arrue won his first Junior National track championship at 14 and his resume today more than measures up to his father's. Arrue has pedaled the globe, winning junior and senior national titles. Arrue placed first in the Olympic sprint and second in match sprint at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1999.

Arrue placed first in track cycling at the Olympic team trials this year at Frisco, Texas.

Arrue, who graduated from Grant High in 1987, began his career with the Chilean national team, winning a silver medal in the 1995 Pan Am games before switching to Team USA in 1996 because Chile ended its dual citizenship program. Arrue doesn't regret making the switch.

"When you're a kid, you don't think about things like citizenship," Arrue said. "But to get on the U.S. team, you have to push it. It's better competition."

Arrue continues to rebound from a career-threatening injury suffered during training a year ago at a velodrome in Frisco, Texas. Navigating a banked turn at 50 mph, Arrue lost control and went into a slide.

The result was a broken clavicle, two cracked ribs and a concussion.

Two weeks later, Arrue was back on track for the World Championships in Germany, where he finished 11th in the Olympic sprint to qualify for the Sydney Games.

Which goes to prove that when you fall off a bike. . .

"It's definitely hard," Arrue said. "My training is to win and not get second. It's frustrating at times. [But] I'm really pleased with my power this year."




Age: 31

Birthplace: Santiago, Chile

Residence: Woodland Hills

High school: Grant

College: Valley College

Honors: Won sprint event at Olympic trials. Was Pan American Games sprint champion in 1998 and '99. National sprint champion in 2000 and 1999, runner-up in 1998, '97 and '96. National team member since 1996. Former national and world junior champion.



What: Men's track cycling

When: Today through Wednesday

Where: Dunc Gray Velodrome

Qualifying: Olympic sprint qualifying, semifinals and finals today; Track sprint qualifying Monday, quarterfinals Tuesday, semifinals and finals Wednesday; Track keirin qualifying, semifinals and finals on Thursday.

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