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Olympic Great Prefers to Watch

March 08, 2004|Diane Pucin and John Ortega | Times Staff Writers

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, owner of five Olympic medals in the heptathlon and high jump, was an honorary starter for Sunday's Los Angeles Marathon.

Watching the start, that was great, Joyner-Kersee said. Running 26.2 miles in 80-degree heat?

"Are you crazy?" she said.

Joyner-Kersee, who runs a charitable foundation in East St. Louis, Ill., said she has been helping train a friend who wants to run in the Chicago Marathon this year.

"She asked me to run with her, and I said no way," Joyner-Kersee said. "I've been back on the track to keep in shape, but I'm not tempted at all to try a marathon."

Joyner-Kersee, 42, also spoke about her sadness in seeing so much bad publicity recently about U.S. track and field with the controversy over the cover-up of positive drug tests among U.S. athletes.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 10, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Track and field -- Jackie Joyner-Kersee won six Olympic medals in the heptathlon and long jump, not five medals in the heptathlon and high jump as reported in a Sports article Monday about the Los Angeles Marathon.

"It seems like all the news about our sport is negative these days, and that trickles down to the grass roots where we need to be convincing high school athletes to try track," she said. "I feel so strongly about how good this sport can be, and I guess my hope is that by getting everything out in the open now, we can start making things better."


Tatyana Pozdnyakova won $79,000 in cash plus a car worth about $26,000 Sunday for winning the women's race -- including a $50,000 bonus for crossing the finish line ahead of all the men in "The Challenge," the handicapped portion of the marathon where 15 elite women were given a 20-minute 30-second head start.

It was by far the most lucrative payday the 49-year-old Pozdnyakova has received. She said she would use some of the $50,000 bonus as college tuition for her 17-year-old son, Eugene, a high school senior in Gainesville, Fla.

Pozdnyakova, whose main home is in Ukraine but who trains in Gainesville during the winter, hopes that Eugene will attend an American university.

Asked what Eugene wanted to study, Pozdnyakova shook her head and said, "He don't know. He has grown very big very fast, but his head is like baby's."

Although Eugene runs cross-country for his high school, Pozdnyakova said, her son "hates running. He is lazy boy. He is teenager."

Which shows that 17-year-olds are the same everywhere.


Tatiana Titova, a 38-year-old Russian, finished second to Pozdnyakova in a time of 2:33.39. Titova has also moved to Gainesville to train with Pozdnyakova and Pozdnyakova's husband, Alex Zahoruyko.

"I only hope I can run as long as Tatyana and half as well," Titova said. "She is an inspiration and I learn so much."

Six of the top-10 women's finishers Sunday were from Eastern Europe. "The marathon has become business for us," Pozdnyakova said. "We train like it is a job because it is how we survive."


Kenyan men continued their domination of the L.A. Marathon by sweeping the top eight places, the sixth consecutive year that Kenyans have swept at least the top three places.


The men's wheelchair division race had been billed as a showdown between six-time champion Saul Mendoza of the U.S. and 2002 champion Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa, but Joel Jeannot of France placed first in 1:27:08 after Mendoza and Van Dyk each had to stop to have a flat tire repaired.


A record 24,532 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers started the marathon. The previous high was 22,167 last year.


Ted Ball, a 61-year-old resident of Santa Monica who received a double lung transplant two years ago, and Carlos Rodriguez, a 39-year-old former convict who lives at the Los Angeles Mission, each finished his first marathon. Ball was timed in 6:44:48, and Rodriguez clocked 6:49:04.

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