This could be a sweet Olympics for U.S. women sprinters—if. If LaTasha Colander's fragile psyche and finicky right Achilles tendon hold up in the 100 meters. If Torri Edwards is cleared by track's international ruling body of doping charges and runs both the 100 and the 200. If Lauryn Williams (100) and Sanya Richards and Dee Dee Trotter (both in the 400) can hold themselves together after a long college season. If Allyson Felix (200) can summon the maturity to compete on the grandest stage 14 months after her high school graduation.
Things were much clearer four years ago, when Marion Jones won the 100 and the 200 in Sydney by record margins. But Jones finished fifth in the 100 at last month's U.S. trials and can run the event in Athens only if (there's that word again) Edwards loses her case and is suspended, and fourth-place trials finisher Gail Devers elects to run just the hurdles, thus opening a spot. Jones, in any case, is far off her best fitness and under a cloud from the BALCO drug scandal.
Colander, Jones's former training partner, dominated the 100 at the trials, blasting away from the field with a Flo-Joesque move at 60 meters to win in 10.97. "My coach [ Trevor Graham, based in Raleigh] said all I did wrong was put my hand up [in celebration] too soon at the finish," says Colander. "I was just elated."
Colander, 27, was one of the country's best in the 400 from 2000 to '02. Most runners move up in distance as they mature; Colander, who ran sprints and hurdles in high school and at North Carolina, has moved down. "I never forgot how to sprint," she says. "Two years ago I told Trevor I wanted to try the 100 again because I knew I couldn't do it in five or six years. I'd be too old."
The daughter of an Apostolic minister from Portsmouth, Va. (where she rode the school bus with future NFL cornerback Dre' Bly), Colander has a reputation for big nerves in big races. At the trials she pulled out of the 200 at the last minute with Achilles pain, prompting Graham to accuse her of faking the injury. The two have patched up their differences, but Colander needs a healthy leg and a strong spine if she's to win the 100 gold for the U.S.