Cuba's Quirot sets meet mark in 400 Red ribbon flying, she runs for Castro PAN AM GAMES

August 06, 1991|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

HAVANA -- Give her socialism or give her death.

Ana Quirot is a true believer of the Cuban revolution, a 28-year-old woman who sprints for Castro and country. She wears red tights and ties a red ribbon in her long, braided black hair -- a comet for communism.

Last night, she achieved one of the great triumphs of her career, bringing a raucous, partisan crowd to its feet and running away with the women's 400-meter final at the Pan American Games. Her time of 49.61 seconds was a Pan Am record and a personal best.

As she circled the track to savor the victory at Pan American Stadium, Cuban President Fidel Castro led the cheers and the crowd chanted her name.

"I took my time celebrating," Quirot said. "It's my people, my revolution, my Commandante. I wanted to show my love for my country."

Quirot led a Cuban blitz on the second day of the track competition. The Cubans won six of nine finals in a display of speed and power.

"After 31 years, we're still going strong," said Quirot, a reference to the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power.

Other Cuban winners included Liliana Allen in the 100 (11.39 seconds), Ioanet Quintero in the high jump (6 feet, 2 inches), Roberto Hernandez in the 400 (44.52 inches), Ramon Gonzalez in the javelin (259-7) and Jaime Jefferson in the long jump (27-1 1/4 ). Tanya Hug of Baltimore was fourth in the high jump (5-10 3/4 ).

The Brazilians took the other three golds, and the United States settled for six silvers and three bronzes.

"Get me out of here, today, tomorrow. I want out," said American sprinter Andre Cason after finishing second in 10.35 seconds behind Brazil's Robson da Silva (10.32) in the 100.

American long jumper Llewellyn Starks also was furious, saying officials robbed him of a gold medal by calling a foul on a jump of 27-6 3/4 .

"I don't want the silver because I deserve the gold and they know I deserve the gold," said Starks, credited with a best jump of 26-3 1/2 . "If I had earned the silver, I would have taken it. I've never seen anything like this. I'm just mad."

Cason, the pre-meet favorite to win the 100, said he was upset by the food, the absence of his coach, the start, and da Silva.

"I got here Saturday and I've already lost 5 pounds," said Cason, who normally weighs 150. "I ate the pork the first night and got sick. I thought it was beef. Since then, I've been living on rations of tuna fish."

Cason also complained that his coach, John Smith, was prevented from attending the Games by the U.S. State Department, which is observing a trade embargo against Cuba. Only team officials and blood relatives could accompany the athletes to Havana.

"It was a bad day at the office, a crying shame that my coach couldn't come down here," Cason said. "They don't look out for the athletes."

The runners were called up to the start three times. There were two other false starts, including one at 20 meters. Cason was furious.

But at these Games, the Cubans are dominant. In track, the team leader is Quirot. Denied a chance to compete at two Olympics because of Cuban boycotts, she continues her marvelous career.

Four years ago, several American runners said that Quirot said she wanted to quit to have a baby. But Quirot, who is married, denied the story. She now plans a full sprint to the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain.

In Havana, she may attempt a historic first, trying to triple in the 400, 800 and 1,500.

"The 1,500, we will see," she said. "I have to be healthy."

Quirot was fresh and terrific yesterday, blowing by the field on the final turn and leading Colombia's Ximena Restrepo to the tape.

With Quirot, there is no difference between sports and politics. She wants to win at both games.

"I knew the Commandante was present at the stadium," she said, her voice growing hoarse. "My people were behind me in the race. I've had many, many good results before, but not in my country. I want to dedicate this great triumph to Fidel Castro."

The Revolution has its heroine. Viva Quirot.

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