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 Pe�a 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�", and her goal this season is to break Sheila Hudson's American record of 47'3�".
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.