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While You Weren't Watching...
TIM LAYDEN
August 22, 2005
In faraway Finland, with no TV attention back in the States, a youthful U.S. team surprised everyone and utterly dominated the world championships
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August 22, 2005

While You Weren't Watching...

In faraway Finland, with no TV attention back in the States, a youthful U.S. team surprised everyone and utterly dominated the world championships

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"Don't you think you need to get off your feet?" she asked him.

"Don't worry about it, Mom," he said, smiling. "I'm cool."

He was cool, all right. And fast: He led a one-two-three-four U.S sweep of the 200. (The U.S. had four starters because John Capel was the defending champion and received a wild-card entry.) It was the first such sweep in worlds history, though it was matched two nights later by Ethiopia in the women's 5,000. It also came one day after the disclosure of incidents in which older U.S. team members told some younger members to fetch drinks at a team party and also threatened to make them sing the national anthem in front of team members if what the older athletes called "disrespectful" behavior toward coaches and others was not curtailed. Among the younger team members were former Arkansas sprinters Wallace Spearmon, 20, and Tyson Gay, 23. Spearmon was second in the 200, and Gay was fourth.

"Shows that getting sodas definitely does not make you run slow," said bronze medalist Capel, 26, who admitted to "having a little fun, older guys picking on the younger guys," but said that nothing physical occurred. USA Track and Field CEO Craig Masback said last Saturday that the organization's internal investigation was ongoing.

Gatlin's close friend Allyson Felix, 19, matched his 200-meter gold, completing a rapid ascension to the top step of the international podium. Two years ago she was a fast, thin girl with a world of potential who had just graduated from tiny L.A. Baptist High. Then she earned a silver medal in Athens, and last week she became the first teenager to win a sprint gold medal at the world championships. ( U.S. teammate Tianna Madison, also 19, won the long jump in Helsinki to become the second teen to earn a world title in a field event.)

In the final Felix relaxed running the curve, even as French sprinter Christine Arron raced up in a lane inside her. Spotting Arron three strides, Felix glided past her 20 meters from the finish to win by .15 of a second in 22.16. "She's stronger than last year," said Jamaica's Veronica Campbell, the Athens gold medalist, who finished fourth in Helsinki. Felix split with coach Pat Connolly after the Olympics and began working with Bobby Kersee, seeking more freedom on and off the track than she says Connolly's system allowed. "Pat was great for my first year out of high school, but things were very unconditional," says Felix.

Best known for coaching his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Florence Griffith Joyner, Kersee has pushed Felix to run intervals as long as 600 meters to increase her strength. "There's a long-range plan, but I'm not revealing it yet," Kersee says. Here's a hint: To help in coaching--and counseling--Felix, Kersee has enlisted another of his former athletes, Valerie Brisco, who under her former married name, Valerie Brisco-Hooks, won the 200 and 400 meters at the 1984 Olympics.

"I'd like to definitely run two events at the 2008 Olympics," says Felix. "And I'll make the decision in time for [the world championships in] 2007 [in Osaka, Japan]. Right now I like the 100; Bobby is thinking about the 400."

Felix is a full-time student at USC, majoring in elementary education, and shares an apartment near campus with her brother, Wes, a former USC sprinter who is still competing. On Sundays they attend the Los Angeles Community Bible Church in South Central L.A. with their parents, Paul and Marlean. Afterward they eat dinner together. Paul usually treats, but Allyson may soon find herself picking up the occasional check.

Both Felix and Gatlin might have added another gold medal. Gatlin was scheduled to anchor the U.S. men's 4�100-meter relay on Saturday night, but in Friday's semifinal Mardy Scales and Leonard Scott botched the first baton pass, and the U.S. team was eliminated. Similar problems kept the U.S. from reaching the final at the worlds in both 1995 and '97. This year's team came together only in Helsinki, and the lineup changed when Crawford dropped out with a left-foot injury after the 100 meters. Chaos ensued. "The U.S. never practices enough," said Greene, who was to run anchor in the first round and either first or second in the final.

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