Two stars of U.S. track and field in the 1980s, middle-distance runner Kim Gallagher, who won two Olympic medals in the 800 meters, and discus thrower Ben Plucknett, who twice set a world record.
Gallagher, who was 38 when she succumbed to a stroke at a hospital near her home in Philadelphia after long battles with colon and stomach cancer, began running at age seven. At eight she ran a 5:37 mile and in 1982 set a high school record in the 800 (2:00.07) that still stands. After a semester and a half at Arizona, she left to train full time for the '84 Olympics. A fierce competitor with a sparkling kick, Gallagher took the silver in L.A. and four years later earned the bronze in Seoul with a time of 1:56.91, the third fastest ever by an American woman. Gallagher, who had a 13-year-old daughter, Jessica Smith, insisted she never loved running. She competed, she said, because "I like excelling in things that I am good at."
Plucknett, 48, died of a brain aneurysm in Essex, Mo. A mountain of a man at 6'7�" and 300 pounds, he was something of a mountain man as well—a bushy-bearded native of Beatrice, Neb., who lived in the hills above Woodside, Calif. in a log cabin decorated with animal hides and stocked with elk meat. His approach to his sport, however, was anything but rustic. "The discus is graceful ballet, magical and absorbing," he once said. Plucknett, who made the Olympic team in the boycott year of 1980, had his greatest moments in '81, when he threw the discus 233'7" to break the world record; two months later he upped the mark to 237'4". A week after that he was suspended for 18 months by the International Amateur Athletic Federation for testing positive for anabolic steroids at an earlier meet.