Just recycle those sneakers for happier equestrians Old Nikes find home on the jumping range

February 21, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

In case you missed it -- and what with the comeback of Magic Johnson, not to mention the ESPYs, we're sure you did -- U.S. equestrian team officials announced last week that two Olympic trials have been moved from this summer's Olympic site near Atlanta to Florida. Seems there's a problem with footing.

And in case you missed this -- and what with Don Shula's plans to remain in South Florida, not to mention the ESPYs, we're sure you did -- horses at an equestrian event in Indio, Calif., were landing quite softly after their jumps. Seems they're jumping on the shredded remains of some 80,000 sneakers. Nike sneakers.

Are you thinking what we're thinking?

Since U.S. track athletes will be outfitted by Nike this summer, how hard would it be for equestrians to saddle up with the swoosh? Since the problem at the Georgia International Horse Park was that the landing areas were too deep, maybe Nike can ship some of its shredded rejects down in time for the 1996 Summer Games.

"I have no knowledge that it's being considered for the Georgia International Horse Park," a U.S. Equestrian Association spokesman said.

In recent years, a move has been underfoot to make the landing areas for show-jumping events a little more forgiving for the horses and their riders. Officials at meets have been using rubber and leather products, including old tires. Now it has come down to Nike rejects.

Ian Millar, a six-time Olympian for Canada, said after jumping at the California event: "It appears that the horses take less strain and stress. It provides a little extra cushion."

Can you imagine if the marketing folks out at Niketown in Portland, Ore., got involved? How about using the slogan: "Just jump"?

More Magic?

Speaking of Magic Johnson, rumors persist that the 36-year-old superstar will continue his comeback with another Dream Team appearance this summer. Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens did little to discourage such thoughts.

"I'm sure Magic will get every consideration that any other player will get," Wilkens said last week. "He certainly brings a lot of enthusiasm to the game."

More importantly, Johnson also will bring ratings to NBC's telecasts. No offense to the first 10 players named, but the only players close to his Q rating are Shaquille O'Neal and Grant Hill.

Vlade Divac, Johnson's teammate on the Los Angeles Lakers, summed up the attitude of the other 11 teams in talking about the draw. "It'll be tough playing against the Dream Team," said Divac, a member of the Yugoslavian team.

Running wins out

Christy Nichols didn't say, "I'm going to Disneyland," after finishing first recently in U.S. cross country team qualifiers for this year's junior world championships.

But the 17-year-old senior from Arundel High said, "I'm through with soccer."

Nichols, a center halfback on the school's soccer team last fall, was the biggest surprise to come out of the recent competition outside Cincinnati. A former two-time Maryland two-mile high school champion, Nichols ran the 4-kilometer course in 14 minutes, 57 seconds.

It enabled her to qualify for this year's junior world championship, scheduled for Friday in South Africa. It also piqued the interest of several college cross country coaches, at least one of whom inquired about Nichols with the U.S. Track and Field Federation.

Nichols has to hope that her second trip to the worlds will go a little better than her first. Two years ago in Budapest, Hungary, Nichols tripped over a hay bale early in the race, twisted her ankle and limped the rest of the way.

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