Barnes, Godina take gold, silver in shot put Winner follows '88 lead with final-throw effort

Atlanta Olympics

July 27, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Randy Barnes had the same thing happen to him eight years ago at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. And it had been done nearly the same way, with Ulf Timmerman of Germany winning the gold medal in the shot put on his last attempt.

So when Barnes stepped into the ring last night here at Olympic Stadium, you would think thoughts of South Korea were floating through his mind.

They weren't.

"I wasn't thinking about '88 until after I threw, because the rest of the night had been such a nightmare," Barnes said later.

Standing sixth overall going into his last throw, Barnes turned his nightmare into the realization of his Olympic dream. With a throw of 70 feet 11 1/4 inches, Barnes did to fellow American and reigning world champion John Godina what Timmerman had done to him:

He passed Godina by nearly three feet to win, giving the U.S. team its first gold-silver sweep at the Olympics since 1960.

It was also a moment of redemption for Barnes, who after winning the silver medal in Seoul missed the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, because of a two-year suspension for steroid use.

But for most of the evening, Barnes didn't think he would come close to winning, or to Godina. Though Godina was having the same type of problems, Barnes had seen what he had done on his practice throws and figured he would do the same eventually during the course of the competition.

"He was throwing 74 in warm-ups," said Barnes. "I had a big throw [73-6] a couple of weeks ago, but I was tight all night. It's the Olympic Games. I thought I was going to come in here and throw the same way, but I felt like a freshman out there."

He wasn't alone. Godina also struggled.

Considered the favorite in the shot put and given a legitimate chance to become the first Olympian in 72 years to win both the shot and discus, Godina didn't get off what turned out to be his silver-medal throw until his fifth of six attempts. But even after moving from seventh to first place going into the last round, Godina didn't seem too excited.

He knew that somebody was going to beat that effort, probably Barnes.

Asked to assess his performance last night, Godina said: "It wasn't very good. It wasn't very good at all. I know what I had to do and it wasn't even close. Luckily, I got a silver medal with a complete and utter failure.

"I had a little problem relaxing. Maybe it's the pressure of being world champion. It cost me six or seven feet all night."

With a chance to give the U.S. team the first sweep of the Olympic shot put medals since 1960, C. J. Hunter fouled on his final attempt and finished seventh.

Like Godina, the concept of the Olympic spirit was foreign. When somebody wanted to know whether he felt good for Barnes, Hunter nearly spat out his words: "I could care less right now," he said, "about him or anyone else."

When Barnes made his winning throw, he ran out onto the track and barely missed knocking over two runners in a preliminary of the men's 5,000 meters. It was his own victory lap, something he has been thinking about since Timmerman beat him. It was something that motivated him during his two-year suspension.

When Paolo dal Soglio of Italy was called for a foul on the last throw of the night, Barnes raised his arms in triumph. "It's been a long road back," he said. "I just turned 30 and I knew I was running out of time. Time is on John's side. I know he's going to be back. I felt very relieved."

Though Barnes didn't run out of time last night, Mary Slaney did. A career filled with loads of world and American records, but also one marred by injuries and Olympic frustration, probably ended when Slaney, 37, finished a distant seventh in her 5,000-meter heat and 21st overall.

Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago is merely looking forward to tonight's men's 100-meter final. After running a sizzling 9.95 seconds, .03 of a second off Carl Lewis' Olympic record, Boldon has to be considered one of the favorites. But the main focus will be Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, who slowed down the last 15 meters, yet came within .01 of a second of tying Lewis' mark.

"There's no question, it's 100 percent guaranteed that a world record will fall tomorrow night," said Boldon, 22. "You might even see two people break it."

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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