Runners leave their feuds behind starting blocks U.S. relay teams enjoy friendly wins

August 08, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- No controversy. No dropped batons.

After weeks of bickering, finger-pointing and intrigue, the members of the U.S. men's relay teams shed their sweats last night and flexed their sprinting muscles at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

The results in the semifinals were as predictable as they were exhilarating.

It was a U.S. double on the way to today's finals.

Led by Carl Lewis' breathtaking anchor, the Americans qualified first in the 400-meter relay with a time of 38.14 seconds.

Then, using a mix-and-match lineup that included Michael Johnson and a new Maryland resident, Chip Jenkins, the Americans had the leading time of 2:59.14 in the 1,600 relay.

The U.S. women also qualified comfortably. In the 400, Evelyn Ashford's leadoff leg helped the United States to a second-place finish behind the Unified Team and a time of 42.50. In the 1,600, Natasha Kaiser ran anchor and crossed the finish first in 3:20.15.

The racing finally overshadowed the controversies and accusations that dogged the U.S. teams.

Would Lewis move up from alternate to anchor? Yes.

Would Johnson get a spot in the 1,600 even though he skipped the qualification races at the U.S. trials? Yes, again.

For once, the U.S. men had fun.

"I felt great again," Lewis said. "In the final, hopefully, we'll run closer to the world record if not get the world record."

Lewis ran with his Santa Monica Track Club teammates, Leroy Burrell and Mike Marsh, the 200 gold medalist. The odd-man finally in was Dennis Mitchell, the 100 bronze medalist who had feuded with the Santa Monica runners.

But yesterday, there were no hard feelings.

"It's fine," Lewis said. "Dennis wants to win a gold medal. He's a businessman."

The 400 was a different story.

To complement Johnson and 400 gold medalist Quincy Watts, the United States used two of its reserves, who were simply thrilled to get a chance to race in the Olympics.

There was Darnell Hall of Detroit, who said he felt something special "the moment I put my warm-up on in the morning and saw USA on the front."

And there was Jenkins, who called himself "a man without a home," because his parents moved last month from the Philadelphia area to Sykesville, Md., while he was on the racing circuit in Europe.

Now, Jenkins plans to return home with a gold medal in honor of his father, Charles. The elder Jenkins won two gold medals at Melbourne, Australia, in 1956 and was once a Villanova track coach.

"I wanted to do this for my father to prove that he's the greatest coach in the world," Chip Jenkins said. "He took a kid, like me, with no talent and made something of him. He's a genius."

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