Work in Sports
Posted: Wednesday May 10, 2000 10:40 AM
Why the world's best doesn't deserve a free pass to Sydney
For the first time since 1896, the U.S. will field fewer than three runners in an Olympic marathon. At the men's trials in Pittsburgh on Sunday, no runners met the Olympic standard of 2:14. As a result only winner Rod DeHaven will represent the U.S.
What gives? After all, waiting in the wings is Moroccan-born Khalid Khannouchi, 28, the fastest marathoner in history (2:05:42), who negotiated miles of red tape to become a U.S. citizen early last week. By now his heartwarming story is well-known -- how he fell in love with America during a 1993 visit and stayed, training on the mean streets of Brooklyn after working late-night shifts as a busboy. Khannouchi repeatedly claimed that representing the U.S. was his dream.
Yet on April 16, just days after his immigration lawyer told him he had an 80% shot at getting citizenship in time to participate in the U.S. trials, Khannouchi ran the London Marathon, where he aggravated injuries and all but ensured he'd be unable to run in Pittsburgh. Apparently the chance to represent the U.S. didn't mean so much to Khannouchi that he'd break his contract with London and pass up the prize money and the six-figure appearance fee that went with it.
Taking the money and running may be the American way in many endeavors but not in Olympic qualifying. To represent the U.S. in track an athlete must survive the trials. If U.S. Olympic officials start adding team members by petition, they might as well contest the trials in a courtroom -- which is surely where DeHaven, who ran his brains out in killing heat and humidity, would go to plead his case. A free pass to Khannouchi would require the U.S. to bump the trials winner, and that, most certainly, is not the American way.
Best of luck to Khannouchi in the Olympic marathon in 2004. Not sooner.
Issue date: May 15, 2000
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