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Olympic Sports
Tim Layden
June 07, 1999
Stretching Out U.S. 5,000-meter king Bob Kennedy is eyeing longer distances
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June 07, 1999

Olympic Sports

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Jacobs's obsessiveness extends to her preparation for particular opponents, especially 1996 800-and 1,500-meter Olympic champion Svetlana Masterkova of Russia. Jacobs, who has never beaten Masterkova, has a video library of top women milers, and she has broken down Masterkova's form and strategies over the final 100-meter segments of races. "I do it," says Jacobs, "because I believe I can beat her" If Jacobs keeps aging so gracefully, she has a shot.

Brazilian Hero Dies
Farewell, Oliveira

The man called João do Pub—"Jumping John" in Portuguese—has come to rest at last. João Carlos de Oliveira of Brazil, who held the world triple jump record from 1975 to '85 and was one of his country's most popular sports heroes, died last Saturday from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 45. Oliveira's casket lay in state in the Legislative Assemby in São Paulo before being returned for burial in his hometown of Pindamonhangaba. Brazil's sports minister, Rafael Greca, called for Oliveira to be remembered for his glories, not for the years in which his life "fell down."

Oliveira, then an army corporal, set his record in Mexico City, leaping 58'8¼" to break the existing mark by nearly a foot and a half. When he returned to Brazil, he received a trophy from the mayor of São Paulo, and his footprints were cast in cement outside his barracks. Oliveira went on to win bronze medals at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. Then one night in 1981 the car in which he was riding was hit head-on by a drunk driver near Campinas, Brazil. Oliveira's right leg had to be amputated below the knee. His athletic career was over. Though he twice was elected a state deputy, Oliveira suffered financial setbacks from failed business ventures. He was reportedly living on a meager pension, debilitated by depression and heavy drinking.

Last year it seemed Jumping John might be bouncing back. He announced plans to train for the long jump at the 2000 Paralympic Games—"if not to win," he said, "to set an example." His health problems cut short that dream, but many Brazilians would say Oliveira had already set his example.

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