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Inside Olympic Sports


Top track enclave HSI keeps its athletes up to speed on and off
the oval

For two days last month two dozen young men and women gathered
in a Las Vegas conference room to listen to presentations on
financial planning, tax law and the roles of the Internet and
television in their lives. They argued, bonded and discussed the
future of their organization and their profession. They acted
just like business people on a corporate retreat--which is what
they were.

They were not, however, your ordinary executives or Dilbert-style
cubicle dwellers. They were track and field athletes, members of
the high-profile, often controversial Los Angeles-based club,
HSInternational. Founded in 1996 by sports attorney Emanuel
Hudson and coach John Smith, HSI has become one of the strongest
groups in the sport. Indeed, HSI athletes could well win more
track medals in Sydney than all but a handful of countries. It
has also come to be resented by many in track's old guard for
reasons ranging from the candor of HSI athletes to their HSI
flag-waving celebrations to the fact that they run fast and win
lots of races.

To HSI's list of crimes, add its businesslike approach, as rare
in track and field as fat milers. Hudson, a 44-year-old Oakland
native who made a small fortune as a litigator for Saudi Arabian
clients, was introduced to track when he took on Smith, a former
U.S. Olympic 400-meter man, as a client after Smith had guided
unknowns Quincy Watts (400 meters) and Kevin Young (400-meter
hurdles) to gold medals at the 1992 Olympics. Together they have
built a full-service management company with a roster of 22
athletes. Smith coaches 16 of them, including 100-meter
world-record holder Maurice Greene, 200-meter world champion
Inger Miller and 1998 200-meter national champion Gentry Bradley,
all of the U.S., and two-time Olympic bronze medalist and 1997
world 200-meter champion Ato Boldon of Trinidad. When Smith's
athletes run and lift together at UCLA--where he is also on staff
as a sprint coach--they represent the most potent concentration of
track talent in the world.

Another half-dozen athletes, including American pole vault record
holder Jeff Hartwig and six-time U.S. high jump champion Tisha
Waller, are managed by HSI but do not train in L.A. For all HSI
athletes Hudson negotiates appearance fees, pursues endorsements
and lines up investment and tax help.

At the Las Vegas retreat athletes ranging in wealth from Greene
and Boldon, who have seven-figure incomes, to just-out-of-college
rookies were instructed in the basics of investment and tax
management. NBC Olympics producer Sam Flood and media consultant
Lewis Johnson led seminars to prepare HSI members for the
scrutiny of the Olympic year. "We're trying to mimic what happens
in the corporate world," says Hudson. "Too often athletes get no

Boldon, who joined HSI immediately after graduation from UCLA in
1996, says, "What we do is simple and logical. I don't think
we're reinventing the wheel." Well, if not, they are at least
retooling the spiked shoe.

Number 1 Downhill Challenge

Hermann Maier of Austria may be a world and Olympic champion with
the coolest nickname in skiing and a gaudy 352-point lead in the
overall World Cup standings this season, but the Herminator still
hasn't won his sport's most prestigious race. He placed fourth in
the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuhel, Austria, last Saturday, a
day after winning the Super G there. At the downhill finish, a
dejected Maier said, "I thought at one point I should get off my
skis and push."

Austrians won three of four events and took eight of the top 10
downhill places in the Hahnenkamm, or "rooster's comb," named for
the distinctive red cliffs above the 900-year-old Tyrolean
village. The Hahnenkamm's southern hill, the Streif, is Mecca to
ski racers, many of whom have found religion on its plunging
turns. The downhillers face a drop of 860 meters at speeds of up
to 100 mph. They usually pass sections called the Mousetrap--the
race started below it this year because of fog--and Steep Wall
even before they enter the narrow flats and icy jumps that
threaten disaster. In 1989 Brian Stemmle of Canada wound up on
life support after a fall at Steep Wall snapped his pelvis.

Asked after Bill Johnson's downhill victory at the '84 Olympics
if the American had joined the downhill elite, Austria's Franz
Klammer, the '76 Olympic champ and a four-time Hahnenkamm winner,
looked out at Sarajevo's tame course and said, "This is for
children. He has to win a downhill at Kitzbuhel."

Notwithstanding his preeminence in the sport, so does


COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER HSI's rarified roster includes (from left) Bradley, Miller, 400-meter star Danny McCray and Greene.