Dash of Hope
Tim Montgomery finally put his demons behind him by outrunning Maurice Greene
After years of trying, Tim Montgomery finally defeated Maurice Greene in a major 100 meters last Friday night, winning at Zurich in 9.98, far ahead of Greene, who never recovered from a terrible start and wound up fifth, in 10.10. "They ran good, I ran bad. It's as simple as that," said Greene. "I'm not injured, I've got no jet lag, and no excuses."
Though most of the prerace hype focused on Greene and newly crowned European champion Dwain Chambers of Great Britain, the 27-year-old Montgomery was the sharpest in the field not once but twice. Zurich is one of the few Grand Prix meets that require sprinters to run two races, with the semifinals 80 minutes before the final. In winning his semi, Montgomery edged Chambers by .01 and clocked his best time of the year, 9.93. Greene, in contrast, finished third in his semi, in 10.08. That set the capacity crowd of 23,000 buzzing with speculation: Was Greene sandbagging?
Apparently not. On a night when the starting gun was consistently quick, Greene reacted poorly. Coby Miller of the U.S. got out of the blocks first, followed by Montgomery, who caught Miller 15 meters from the finish. Chambers was third in 10.05.
After the race Montgomery emphasized the importance of winning rather than running fast, but his time was impressive, as he had faced a 1.3-meter-per-second headwind "I think it might have been worth 9.76 with the same wind behind us," he said.
Though at 5'10" and 155 pounds Montgomery is slight for a sprinter, his stature in the sport grew with his performance in Zurich. He considers his win a turning point. "I wanted to take the stigma off me of not being able to beat Maurice," he says. "I've always known that physically I could beat this guy. Maurice would beat me on technique and concentration. He tricks you into thinking about him, and whenever your mind leaves the race, you lose something. Running this fast, everything has to be automatic."
U.S. Champion Yuliana Perez
The Jump Of Her Life
Triple jumpers cover great stretches of earth in an unorthodox fashion, but none have made a journey more extraordinary than that of U.S. champion Yuliana Perez. Born in Tucson 21 years ago to Cuban parents who came over in the Mariel boat lift, Perez was three and living in downtown San Diego when her mother was killed by a stray bullet while looking out a bedroom window. Because her father was serving time in an Atlanta prison for robbery—and, she believes, still is, though she's had no contact with him—Perez and her two younger brothers were sent back to Havana to live with their paternal grandmother. There, the gifted athlete soon caught the attention of the Cuban sports authorities, who made her first a sprinter and then a triple jumper.
By 1999 Perez was good enough to earn a spot on the Cuban team for the world championships in Seville. The Cuban authorities, sensing in her an incorrigible streak of independence, requested that she give up her U.S. citizenship before the 2000 Olympics. When she refused, she was kicked off the team and out of her sports school. After that, she says, "I just wanted to get out of there. I didn't think about what I would do once I left. I had to go."
It took five anxious months to persuade the Swiss embassy in Cuba to help her get a U.S. passport. Though she no longer knew anyone in the U.S., in early 2000 she traveled via Cancun and Houston to Tucson, arriving with just a backpack and a referral to a foster home.