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International Track Stars Set Their Sights on Olympic Gold

International Track Stars Set Their Sights on Olympic Gold

Posted August. 04, 2004 22:17,   


“Dreaming of a revolution.”

Only eight days before the start of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, track and field stars are bracing for fierce competition, hoping to create new legends.

Asafa Powell (Jamaica), who is going to run the men`s 100m dash, the so-called human bullet race, is hopeful of a gold medal. Powell won the men’s 100 meters with a record of 9.91 seconds at the Super Grand Prix Championships held by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) on July 31 and took first place for the first time in the IAAF World rankings, released on August 4, scoring 1389. Second place was taken by Shawn Crawford (U.S.A., score: 1327), who ran this year’s top time of 9.88 seconds.

Since Tim Montgomery (U.S.A), the current world record holder in the men’s 100 meters with a time of 9.78 seconds, failed to qualify for the Athens Games in the 100m, Maurice Greene (best time this year: 9.91, best record: 9.79 seconds) had been expected to win a gold medal with the U.S. team. However, he has been suffering from poor progress, dropping to fifth place in the rankings (score: 1319), casting a dark cloud over his chances of winning another victory in the Olympics.

Marion Jones, who won the 100 meters at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, lost her spot on the U.S. team for the upcoming Athens Games, undermining the U.S. effort to win the women’s 100 meters. This year’s record holder with 10.77 seconds is Ivet Lalova (Bulgaria). Chryste Gaines (U.S.A, first place in the IAAF rankings) and Torri Edwards (U.S.A, second place in the IAAF rankings) are among the top candidates to win a gold medal.

In the women`s pole vault, one of the most popular events in track and field, a matter of primary concern is who will clear five meters, breaking a women’s pole vault record. A Russian rookie, Yelena Isinbayeva, 22, (score: 1404) who has broken the women`s pole vault record two times in a row, defeated her teammate and rival, Svetlana Feofanova, 24, (score: 1390) by taking the number one spot in the rankings, which has intensified the competition.

Isinbayeva, who has been in gymnastics until the age of 15, broke the world record of 4.80m set by Stacy Dragila (U.S.A) in July of last year, and raised the world record from 4.88 m, set by Feofanova, to 4.89m at the Birmingham Norwich Union International on July 26. Furthermore, she vaulted 4.90m at the Crystal Palace Norwich Union London Grand Prix on July 31, where she expected to overcome an “invincible five-meter record.”

Men’s and women’s middle-distance races are also waiting for something unexpected. Maria Mutola (Mozambique, women’s 800m), the so-called the iron woman of the track, ended her 27-event winning streak, and Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco, men’s 1,500m), the king of the mile, also concluded his 29-event winning streak last month. However, Mutola, who had won four times in a row at the World Championships and six times at the indoor World Championships, has a head start in the race for Olympic gold. She ran 800m in one minute 57.72 seconds, but still lags behind this year’s record, following Jolanda Čeplak (Slovenia, recorded time: one minute 57.68 seconds) and Tatyana Andrianova (Russia, recorded time: one minute 57.71 seconds).

El Guerrouj (this year’s record holder with a time of three minutes 29.18 seconds), who has been champion in 81 out of 83 events since 1996, was also defeated by Rashid Ramzi (Bahrain, recorded time: three minutes 30.25 seconds) by a second at the Roma Golden Gala.

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com