Stevens fades to fourth in 400 final Ex-Morgan State star happy being alternate

June 20, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Rochelle Stevens is still coming back here for next month's Olympic Games, but it will likely be in the role of cheerleader than cheered leader. Four years after winning the 400-meter finals at the U.S. Olympic trials in New Orleans, the former Morgan State star finished fourth in the same event last night at Olympic Stadium.

"I'm glad I'm on the team," said Stevens, who'll be an alternate. "I'm going to enjoy myself."

Stevens, the only American woman to make the Olympic final at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, won't have to deal with the politics of which lane she gets or the pressure of having to make it through the heats or the criticism she endured after losing the lead as the anchor on the 4 x 400 relay team. Especially the criticism. "If you're not a gold medal winner you're nothing," she said. "I won a silver and all I got was criticism."

This will likely be the last try at the Olympics for Stevens, 29. After running out of gas down the stretch to finish in 51.16 seconds, Stevens announced that she plans to retire after the season ends. She intends to return to her native Memphis and look for a job. Stevens has an interview lined up with a local television station and hopes to represent other athletes in their search for endorsements.

The interest in getting contracts for athletes stems from what happened to Stevens when she broke her jaw after taking a fall during an ice storm three years ago. After falling out of the top 10 that year, Nike dropped her. She was without a major sneaker contract until Reebok picked her up a few weeks ago. Her only other endorsement deal is with a cosmetic company in Chicago.

Stevens plans on running in Europe through the end of the season, and her performance here should help her get into some meets. Though disappointed with her race last night, and by the prospect of not running in the Olympics, Stevens seemed ready for some closure. "I have achieved all the goals I set for myself -- except making the top three in the trials," she said. "I'm looking forward to the rest of my life."

She is also looking ahead to being inducted in the Morgan State Hall of Fame two years down the road. A 1988 graduate, Stevens will have a present to bring. "I'm going to give them back the jersey I took with me," she said.

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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