New guard just a sprint away from gold Olympic track trials yield unpredictable look

June 30, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

Carl Lewis relinquished his title as king of the sprints.

Dan O'Brien lost. So did Mary Slaney, Roger Kingdom and Greg Foster.

And a 400-meter man named Butch Reynolds won in the Supreme Court but took the fifth on the track.

The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials that ended Sunday were the wackiest on record, a 10-day meet that began with court orders, produced upsets and created a changing of the guard.

From the heat and humidity of Tad Gormley Stadium emerged an intriguing team that will sprint, jump and throw for golds at next month's Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

"I think this is the greatest Olympic team ever," U.S. men's coach Mel Rosen said.

Greatest? Still, to be decided in Barcelona. This is a team that few would have projected two weeks ago.

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Lewis, claiming to be feeling ill, finished sixth in the 100,fourth in the 200, second in the long jump and then decided not to run as a spare on the 4 x 100 relay.

O'Brien failed to clear a height in the pole vault and brought down not just his Olympic dream, but Reebok's "Dan and Dave" advertising campaign.

For once, Slaney didn't fall. She just faded in the stretch of the 1,500.

Kingdom, a two-time Olympic champion, and Foster, a three-time world champion, lost in the 110 hurdles, and Jack Pierce, a former Morgan State sprinter who once supported his racing career by cleaning out slot machines in an Atlantic City casino, won.

"I don't think the guard has changed," Pierce said. "I think there are just more guards in track and field."

But it was the Reynolds saga that dominated the event.

With a Supreme Court order, Reynolds temporarily overturned a two-year drug suspension imposed by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. But after three terrific 400 races, he ran out .. of gas in the final, finished fifth and was named to the Olympic team as a spare in the 4x400 relay.

His chances of reaching Barcelona remain slim, however. IAAF officials vow to block his path to the starting line.

Despite the chaos, the U.S. team appears formidable.

World-record holder Mike Powell is the overwhelming favorite in the long jump. His fiercest competition should come from Lewis.

Michael Johnson appears nearly unbeatable in the 200 after clocking 19.79 seconds in the final, fourth fastest in history.

Dennis Mitchell, Mark Witherspoon and former world-record holder Leroy Burrell provide a 1-2-3 punch in the 100.

The 400 could produce a U.S. sweep, led by Danny Everett, the 1988 bronze medalist, who ran 43.81 in the final, second-fastest ever. Reigning Olympic champ Steve Lewis and NCAA champ Quincy Watts are threats for the gold.

Pierce and Tony Dees are gold-medal favorites in the 110 hurdles. With O'Brien out, the decathlon favorite is now Dave Johnson.

Other medal contenders include Johnny Gray in the 800, Kevin Young in the 400 hurdles, Charlie Simpkins in the triple jump, Kami Keshmiri in the discus, Mike Stulce in the shot put and 1988 Olympic silver medalist Hollis Conway in the high jump.

As usual, Jackie Joyner-Kersee leads the American women, as she attempts to defend her Olympic titles in the heptathlon and the long jump. But Joyner-Kersee is no longer the overwhelming favorite in the heptathlon, in which she will be pressed by Sabine Braun of Germany.

The woman most likely to break through to stardom at the Olympics is Gwen Torrence, the 1991 world champion silver medalist in the 100 and 200. Torrence is pressing for a rematch against Germany's Katrin Krabbe, whose two-year ban for drug-testing irregularities was overturned Sunday by the IAAF. Torrence was outraged by the ruling, claiming that Krabbe "is not a clean runner."

"Krabbe knows she can't compete with us without drugs," Torrence said.

Gail Devers (100 hurdles), Sandra Farmer-Patrick (400 hurdles), PattiSue Plumer (3,000) and Lynn Jennings (10,000) also could contend for medals.

Connie Price-Smith, not among the medal favorites, had a tricky decision to make yesterday. A double-winner in the shot put and discus, Price-Smith will throw only the discus in Barcelona. Replacing her in the shot put will be Pam Dukes, the fourth-place finisher at the trials.

"People are under-rating us," Torrence said. "But watch out for the American women."

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