But if Kempainen was carving himself a slice of ignominy with his televised regurgitation, it was his response to the sickness that was truly memorable. He twice staggered, as if about to fall, but never truly broke stride. While engaged in an activity that people usually conduct hunched over a toilet, he ran two full miles in 10:05 and actually extended his lead over fellow Olympic qualifiers Coogan, who would finish second, and Brantly, who was third. Kempainen won by more than 100 yards, in 2:12:45, and earned $100,000 for the victory.
His performance left fellow runners awestruck, no small feat in a sport whose essence is pain tolerance. "This guy is the toughest human being on the earth," said Brantly. "I would have started crying and stopped [running]." Ed Eyestone, a two-time Olympic marathoner who finished 15th, said, "Ralphing for the last two miles, now that's gutsy." Vin Lananna, Kempainen's coach since 1984, said, "I've never seen anything like this, from Bob or anybody else."
Kempainen, a 29-year-old Dartmouth graduate who is scheduled to finish medical school at Minnesota in April, graciously accepted the humor in his circumstance. "I ran well between hurling," he said following the race. And later that night the slight, impish Kempainen allowed that his pressing on amid the upheaval did "make me look like a hard guy."
He is. Although Kempainen finished 17th in the Barcelona Olympic marathon, he will go to Atlanta more mature, stronger and deeply tested. It is hard to imagine an Olympian more deserving of the title.
Reds May Go to the Shotgun
New Cincinnati Reds manager Ray Knight, who played some high school football, has taken to calling first base coach Joel Young-blood "offensive coordinator" and bench coach Jim Lett "defensive coordinator."
Does this mean pitching coach Don Gullett is in charge of special teams?
Hue and Cry
While there's no doubt Rick Pitino is a revered figure in Kentucky (page 80), his list of home-team detractors has expanded considerably in recent days. Before a game against Arkansas at Rupp Arena on Feb. 11, Pitino announced at a press conference the Wildcats' sixth uniform change since he came to Kentucky in 1989. The Wildcats are now wearing a home uniform trimmed in denim of a shade that has some Wildcats fans seeing red. There have been numerous complaints on call-in shows in Lexington, where the uni change was frontpage news all last week. The hue of the blue denim, you see, seems to many fans of Kentucky's deep blue to be uncomfortably close to Carolina blue.
Pitino says that the two blues aren't the same and claims it took a lot of "fine-tuning" to get the new Kentucky blue as dark as possible. "We took a towel of Carolina blue and put it next to our shade," said Pitino. "Our color is so much darker, it's not even close."