Dash of Hope
Tim Montgomery finally put his demons behind him by outrunning
After years of trying, Tim Montgomery finally defeated Maurice
Greene in a major 100 meters last Friday night, winning at Zurich
in 9.98, far ahead of Greene, who never recovered from a terrible
start and wound up fifth, in 10.10. "They ran good, I ran bad.
It's as simple as that," said Greene. "I'm not injured, I've got
no jet lag, and no excuses."
Though most of the prerace hype focused on Greene and newly
crowned European champion Dwain Chambers of Great Britain, the
27-year-old Montgomery was the sharpest in the field not once but
twice. Zurich is one of the few Grand Prix meets that require
sprinters to run two races, with the semifinals 80 minutes before
the final. In winning his semi, Montgomery edged Chambers by .01
and clocked his best time of the year, 9.93. Greene, in contrast,
finished third in his semi, in 10.08. That set the capacity crowd
of 23,000 buzzing with speculation: Was Greene sandbagging?
Apparently not. On a night when the starting gun was consistently
quick, Greene reacted poorly. Coby Miller of the U.S. got out of
the blocks first, followed by Montgomery, who caught Miller 15
meters from the finish. Chambers was third in 10.05.
After the race Montgomery emphasized the importance of winning
rather than running fast, but his time was impressive, as he had
faced a 1.3-meter-per-second headwind. "I think it might have
been worth 9.76 with the same wind behind us," he said.
Though at 5'10" and 155 pounds Montgomery is slight for a
sprinter, his stature in the sport grew with his performance in
Zurich. He considers his win a turning point. "I wanted to take
the stigma off me of not being able to beat Maurice," he says.
"I've always known that physically I could beat this guy. Maurice
would beat me on technique and concentration. He tricks you into
thinking about him, and whenever your mind leaves the race, you
lose something. Running this fast, everything has to be
U.S. Champion Yuliana Perez
The Jump Of Her Life
Triple jumpers cover great stretches of earth in an unorthodox
fashion, but none have made a journey more extraordinary than
that of U.S. champion Yuliana Perez. Born in Tucson 21 years ago
to Cuban parents who came over in the Mariel boat lift, Perez was
three and living in downtown San Diego when her mother was killed
by a stray bullet while looking out a bedroom window. Because her
father was serving time in an Atlanta prison for robbery--and, she
believes, still is, though she's had no contact with him--Perez
and her two younger brothers were sent back to Havana to live
with their paternal grandmother. There, the gifted athlete soon
caught the attention of the Cuban sports authorities, who made
her first a sprinter and then a triple jumper.
By 1999 Perez was good enough to earn a spot on the Cuban team
for the world championships in Seville. The Cuban authorities,
sensing in her an incorrigible streak of independence, requested
that she give up her U.S. citizenship before the 2000 Olympics.
When she refused, she was kicked off the team and out of her
sports school. After that, she says, "I just wanted to get out of
there. I didn't think about what I would do once I left. I had to
It took five anxious months to persuade the Swiss embassy in Cuba
to help her get a U.S. passport. Though she no longer knew anyone
in the U.S., in early 2000 she traveled via Cancun and Houston to
Tucson, arriving with just a backpack and a referral to a foster
Triple jumping was forgotten as Perez adjusted to a new country
and wrestled with a new language. One day, she took the wrong bus
and wound up chatting with the kindly driver, who had the 5'8"
Perez pegged as a basketball player. When she told him her sport
was track, he pointed across the street, to Pima Community
College, where his friend Mario Pena was the sprints coach. One
year later Perez was the national junior college champion in the
long jump and triple jump.
She needs one more year at Pima to be eligible for a scholarship
at a four-year college, and then some lucky school will get an
almost guaranteed NCAA champ. At the U.S. championships in June,
five of her six jumps were long enough to win over an otherwise
weak American triple-jump corps. Her personal best is 46' 7
1/4", and her goal this season is to break Sheila Hudson's
American record of 47' 3 1/2".
On Sunday, competing in Glasgow against a strong field in the
U.S.-Great Britain-Russia triangular meet, she finished sixth
with a 43'10". It was a disappointment for her, but she has
learned to turn such moments into inspiration. "I am going to be
the world-record holder by the next Olympics," she vows. Given
how far she's come, it's hard to doubt her.
Favor Hamilton's Fast 1,500
Head Strong At Last?
One of the more hard-to-figure careers in U.S. track and field
took another intriguing twist last Friday night when Suzy Favor
Hamilton very nearly beat Gabriela Szabo, the defending world
champion, in the Zurich 1,500 meters. Hamilton's time, 3:59.10,
was .32 of a second off Szabo's and was easily the fastest of the
year by a U.S. woman. More important, it proved that just when
you think it's time to write the 34-year-old Hamilton off as a
hopeless head case, her talent stops you.
Hamilton has had her share of inexplicable letdowns. At the
Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics she failed to get out of the
heats. In the final in Sydney she was leading coming off the last
turn, only to stumble through the next 100 meters as if in a daze
and finish 12th. More recently she dropped out of a 1,500 in
Paris with 500 to go, saying later that she just wasn't ready to
race. When she tries to describe what went through her mind in
Paris, she sounds as though she were running in a fog. "I don't
remember that part [where I dropped out]," she says. "I thought I
was at the back of the pack." She says she was stunned when her
husband told her she'd been in the middle.
It's hard to tell what her great run in Zurich means. Cynics will
say it just means she ran fast on Friday night in Zurich. We'll
have to wait until next year's world championships to find out if
it meant more than that.
COLOR PHOTO: R. MARTIN/PRESSE SPORTS (TOP) In Zurich neither Greene (260) nor Chambers (253) could catch Montgomery.
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Perez has the eight longest outdoor triple jumps this year by an American woman.
COLOR PHOTO: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP (TOP) Favor Hamilton (left) can still run with the best of them, as she proved to Szabo in Zurich.
COLOR PHOTO: CLAUDIO ORONATI/AFP In Rome, Krummenacker took the 800.
On Your Marks
Krummenacker Eyes Ryun Feat
With bests of 1:43.95 for 800 meters and 3:31.93 for 1,500 (the
equivalent of a 3:49 mile), David Krummenacker has become the
fastest U.S. 800-1,500 doubler ever and the first American since
Rick Wolhuter in the mid-1970s to excel in both events
simultaneously. Not only has the 27-year-old Krummenacker run
fast, but he has also beaten loaded 800 fields at Grand Prix
meets in Paris and Rome. His goal is to hold the U.S. record for
both events, something that hasn't been done since Jim Ryun owned
the world records for both in the mid-'60s.... Khalid Khannouchi,
the world's fastest marathoner, has installed a sealed
high-altitude room at his home in Ossining, N.Y. By limiting the
oxygen in the room, where he spends 10 hours a day, Khannouchi, a
Moroccan-born U.S. citizen who ran a world-best 2:05:38 in London
last year, can derive the endurance benefits of living at 10,000
feet.... Gail Devers suffered her first loss of the season,
placing third in the Zurich 100-meter hurdles in 12.73 seconds
behind Glory Alozie of Spain (12.63) and Bridgette Foster of
Jamaica. Devers, 35, a two-time Olympic champ in the 100-meter
dash, had won nine consecutive hurdle finals this year.