"He's always had problems with his feet," Banner says. "Too much speed work kills him. That's why we switched to the 800. He really wasn't fast enough to be a great 400 runner anyway."
It was a first-class move. Last year, Fiasconaro, who claims he would still rather be playing rugby, ran 800 meters in 1:43.7, breaking Peter Snell's 11-year-old world record by .6 of a second.
"That's why an 880 would be such a beautiful race," Franken contended to Banner. "He's got the world record in the 800. He would be racing Rick Wohlhuter, who has the 880 world record, and Mark Winzenried, who has the 1,000 indoor world record. A great match."
Banner was not impressed. "We thought it was a 440 and that's the way we trained," he said. "No 880."
Sighing, Franken suggested they compromise—run a 600.
"Fantastic," said Banner. "First class. Top rate. A 600. Done."
Wohlhuter and Winzenried were not enthralled, but said they would run the shorter distance, if not well.
"It's a different game," said Wohlhuter, a Chicago insurance adjuster who broke Jim Ryun's 880 world record of 1:44.9 by .3 of a second last year. "I haven't done any speed work. I'd say it's a little unfortunate, a little disappointing. It's diminished my chances of winning. I thought it would be a great race, he and I at the distance we are both best at."
At breakfast Saturday morning, Banner told Fiasconaro of the decision. "Great," the runner said. "Hey, did I tell you I found my girl in North Carolina? Fantastic." He giggled. "She was a little sleepy at first. She said, 'Marcello, is that you?' But then we talked a long time. I really love her."
Banner laughed. "He met her just once," he said. "In Italy."