At 35, three-time Olympian Gail Devers is having the finest
outdoor season of her career
At an instructional clinic in Palo Alto, Calif., last month Gail
Devers was shooting out of the blocks too quickly for her young
audience. "Once more, Miss Devers," a teenage voice implored. "We
can't see how you do it."
"Don't make me explain again," Devers said, laughing. "Age does
bad things for your memory."
In Devers's case it also does wonders for your hurdling. At 35,
when her body should be encountering obstacles as formidable as
the barriers on the track, Devers is enjoying the finest outdoor
season of her 19-year career. The two-time Olympic 100-meter
champ is focusing on the 100-meter hurdles this season and has
won nine races and clocked eight of the year's 12 fastest
wind-legal times, including the world-leading 12.40 that she ran
in Lausanne on July 2.
Training by herself on a high school track in Atlanta, Devers is
relying more on videotape to straighten out technical
imperfections and less on guidance from longtime coach Bob
Kersee, now living in St. Louis, whom she calls only
occasionally. "I'm seeing things from the tapes I didn't realize
before," she says. "Now I can feel what I do and change it in
Since her collapse over the final hurdle cost her a gold medal at
the 1992 Olympics, Devers has struggled to shake the habit of
throttling back and holding her arms closer to her side whenever
she gets too close to a hurdle. "Now I tell myself to get the
lead leg back down as quickly as possible. Don't float over the
hurdles. Don't ease your speed," she says. "It's hard because
your tendency when you feel close to the hurdles is to compensate
by doing things that make you go slower."
Devers is trying to strengthen not only her technique but also
her sport. "Especially in the States, track and field is dying,"
she says. "If you don't change it, that's your fault." She has
put on premeet clinics around the U.S. and in Europe, addressing
young foreign athletes abroad with "Boo!" and "Yea!" when
evaluating technique. She recently received a diamond for
breaking a track record in Stockholm's 90-year-old Olympic
Stadium and will soon auction it off to help pay for the
resurfacing of the track at her high school in National City,
Devers may come into more riches by the end of the season. Should
she win the final three Golden League meets in Europe, she'll
earn a piece of the $500,000 jackpot that will be divided by
those athletes who win their event at all seven league meets. Not
bad for a woman who just keeps getting better with age.
IAAF Belt Tightening
Golden League To Be Downsized
Financial woes have hit the once thriving European track circuit.
Athlete appearance fees are down roughly 25% this season, and not
just because this is the one year out of the next four without a
world championship or a Summer Olympics. "It's part of the
general malaise hitting international sport," says Nick Davies,
spokesman for the IAAF, the sport's governing body. The IAAF has
had difficulty selling a television package of its Golden League
series of seven European meets. Next year, in order to streamline
the prize-money series for TV, the IAAF will reduce it to five or
One of the meets likely to be dropped from the circuit for at
least a few years is Oslo's venerable Bislett Games, which have
produced 62 world records, most of those in distance races. The
IAAF wants all the Golden League meets to have a standardized
slate of events, a problem for Oslo because its charming
80-year-old stadium--the Fenway Park of track--has a six-lane track
that is not well-suited to sprints. The plan is to build a new
stadium that is more acceptable to the IAAF, but in the eyes of
many critics the demand for uniformity will only further damage
the sport. "Why change Oslo?" asks Ray Flynn, once an elite miler
and now one of track and field's top agents. "Allow the meets to
play to their strengths rather than try to make them the same.
This is a great sport with a lack of leadership."
Greene with Envy
Montgomery Still Second Best
Tim Montgomery may be the heir apparent to world and Olympic
100-meter champ Maurice Greene, but he apparently erred this
spring when he started woofing about breaking Greene's world
record. "I'm going after Maurice Greene's 9.79," insisted
Montgomery, second to Greene at the 2001 worlds. "I'm getting
ready to do something that no human has ever done before."
Though Greene has not been at his best in the season's first half
(losing twice, to Britain's Dwain Chambers), Montgomery has yet
to beat him in four races this summer, and frazzled confidence
has replaced his braggadocio. After Greene defeated him at the
U.S. nationals last month, Montgomery confessed, "I got maybe one
hour of sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw
Maurice looking back at me."
Says Jon Drummond, one of Greene's training partners, "Montgomery
thinks too much about Mo instead of concentrating on his race. As
long as he does that, he's never gonna beat Mo. Mo doesn't care
what Tim does. That's why he keeps winning and Tim doesn't."
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL STEELE/GETTY IMAGES Devers is unbeaten in nine hurdle races this season and has the year's fastest time.
COLOR PHOTO: DYLAN MARTINEZ/REUTERS Montgomery's feet aren't as fast as his mouth, so he's still vainly chasing No. 1 Greene.
On Your Marks
Freeman gearing up for return at Commonwealth Games
Australia's Cathy Freeman, the sporting and cultural heroine of
the Sydney Games, says she'll run a leg of the 4x400-meter relay
at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, later this
month. The 400-meter gold medalist in Sydney, Freeman didn't
compete for nearly a year and a half after the Olympics. Recently
she has been looking after her ailing husband, Nike executive
Sandy Bodecker, who is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation
treatments for a cancerous tumor in his throat.... Legally blind
U.S. Olympian Marla Runyan, who placed eighth in the 1,500 meters
in Sydney, will make her debut in the marathon on Nov. 3 in New
York. Runyan, who needs a magnifying glass to read her watch,
will closely follow the blue course line in front of her and will
have people stationed along the route to shout out her split
times. She says she still plans to compete on the track at the
Athens Olympics.... Surgeons recently removed a benign tumor from
the hip of Austria's Stephanie Graf, the silver medalist at 800
meters in Sydney. Graf, who fainted after learning of the tumor,
plans to begin rehab workouts in a pool sometime next week....
Jamaican-born sprinter Merlene Ottey, who has lived and trained
in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana since 1998 and was granted
citizenship in May by her adopted country, likely will miss the
European Championships next month because of surgery on her left
knee. At 42 Ottey has won 14 world and seven Olympic medals. Her
silver in the 4x100-meter relay at Sydney made her the oldest
woman to have won an Olympic track medal.... Sydney Paralympic
gold medalist Marlon Shirley of Olympia, Wash., set a world
100-meter record for amputees on Monday, running an 11.08 at the
International Paralympic World Athletics Championships in Lille,
France. Shirley, 24, whose left leg was amputated below the knee
when he was in high school, hopes to become the first leg amputee
to break 11 seconds.