SI Vault
Edited by Jack McCallum and Kostya Kennedy
November 27, 1995
Still the King
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November 27, 1995


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David Emanuel, who heads the torch-relay planning committee, says that including Prague would add hours to the schedule, even though the route to the town, which lies due south of Yale, could run parallel to the current route and not add significant mileage. What's more, the way to Prague would pass through the heart of a Sac and Fox reservation. Thorpe belonged to that tribe, and his Sac and Fox name is Wa-Tho-Huck. That means Bright Path, which is exactly what the torch's route through Oklahoma is not.

The Heart of the Matter

Northwestern may be dispatching football foes with uncharacteristic ease this autumn, but in basketball the Wildcats are facing an opponent who's proving tough to overcome. Freshman Nick Knapp is suing Northwestern because the Wildcats won't let him play hoops. Knapp, one of Illinois's top schoolboy guards while he was at Peoria Woodruff High, made a verbal commitment to Northwestern in 1994 after his junior season. That September, Knapp collapsed during a pickup game and went into cardiac arrest. Northwestern stood by its scholarship offer to Knapp, who was valedictorian of his class. And though Knapp sat out his senior basketball season, he competed in some 60 all-star and pickup games last summer. But the Wildcats refused to let him play after Howard Sweeney, the team physician, reviewed Knapp's records.

Nick, 18, and his father, Terry, dispute Sweeney's decision. They say that four other doctors have cleared Knapp since a defibrillator—which can restart a heart after cardiac arrest—was installed in his belly last October. They have offered to absolve the school of liability if he does suit up.

The case is scheduled to go to trial before the end of the year, and the Knapps are paying their legal bill with $49,000 that had been set aside for Nick's education. The family considers it an investment. "My son can play in the pros, certainly in Europe," Terry says. He is also concerned that Sweeney's report "will follow my son to every job interview.... As a parent, I have to do something to get that off his record."

If Knapp does return to the hardwood, he plans to wear number 3 to symbolize his long-range shooting prowess. An eerier symbolism lies in the number Knapp sometimes wore last summer in tribute to one of his idols, a bruising forward who led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding in 1988-89. The number was 44. The idol was Hank Gathers.

An Olympian Quandary

Last summer, when Michael Johnson became the first sprinter ever to win the 200 and 400 meters at the world championships, officials at the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which controls the track and field schedule for the 1996 Olympics, should have realized that Johnson had to be given a chance to repeat that double in Atlanta. Johnson had already declared that as his goal, and since no male sprinter has won gold in both those sprints at the same Olympics, the attempt loomed as a potential highlight of the Games and as a major boost to track and field in America, where the sport is dying a slow, public death.

Alas, the IAAF acted myopically when it did not immediately amend its already-released schedule, which has the 400 meters on July 27, 28, 29 and 31 and the 200 meters on July 29 and 31 and Aug. 1. Johnson, who says he won't try his double unless the 400 is done before the 200 heats begin—as was the case at the Worlds in Sweden—petitioned the IAAF in June for a schedule change. The IAAF has yet to rule on the petition, though indications are that Johnson will be accommodated.

And he should be. Johnson is the only one of track's superstars who has consistently geared his training and participation toward an Olympic double. The more recent petition to change the schedule so that Carl Lewis can attempt three events seems little more than a sophomoric game of if-Michael-gets-a-change-I-want-one-too. Lewis's camp has been quietly feuding with Johnson's, and no one really believes that Lewis's desire to try the 100-200-long-jump triple is realistic. Though he swept the events in Los Angeles in '84, he will have trouble making the squad in either sprint and may not even qualify in the long jump.

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