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After Wakiihuri crossed the finish in 2:12:39, he turned and seemed to bow at the course behind him. Behind him came Garcia, in 2:13:19, and Brace, in 2:13:32. Ikangaa finished fourth in 2:14:32.
Garcia is a member of Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari's military escort. Nicknamed el Falcon, he wears a golden earring shaped like a falcon in his left ear and does most of his training in the mountains south of Mexico City, in the company of a Doberman named la Mafia. Garcia ran with bleeding blisters for the second half of the race. "Everybody thinks the African runners are the best," he said. "People don't realize the Mexicans are the strongest. I wanted to prove it here, and the only reason I didn't was the blisters. All I had on my mind was fighting for Mexico."
Wanda Panfil, 31, developed her allegiance to Mexico more recently. She was born in Poland, but two years ago she married a Mexican, Mauricio Gonzalez, who finished 11th in the 10,000 at the Seoul Olympics. Running for Poland, Panfil was 22nd in the Seoul marathon. But with Gonzalez coaching her, she has become one of the world's top distance runners. This year she won the Nagoya and London marathons.
Panfil started cautiously on Sunday, catching Kim Jones of Spokane at nine miles. In the 12th mile, Panfil surged, I started to go with her but felt my right quad tighten," Jones said later. "So I backed off and was fine." Panfil's lead would grow to almost a minute at 20 miles and, as late as 23 miles, it was still a seemingly unassailable 48 seconds.
But by then Panfil had reached the tough, rolling hills of Central Park, She ran clutching her right side. Frequently, Panfil twisted uncomfortably to look behind her. Later, she would say she saw no one coming. That was only because she chose not to look back during the final half mile. If she had, she might have spotted Jones, hiding behind a pair of blue sunglasses, gaining ground mightily.
But Jones was too late. Panfil dragged herself across the line in 2:30:45, while Jones finished just 25 yards and five seconds behind her. Katrin Dorre, of what used to be East Germany, came in third, in 2:33:21, and Grete Waitz, who had hoped at 37 to win her 10th New York title, was fourth, in 2:34:34.
Oddly, her near-miss didn't seem to bother Jones. "I tried to catch her," she said. "She slowed a bit, but I couldn't make up any more. I gave it my best."
Wakiihuri would never accept defeat so cheerfully. "You can't give back a chance," he said of the debt he owes Nakamura. "I feel guilty that I can't give it back. All I can do is do my best and respect the sport and the special chance I was given as an athlete. So that, wherever he is, he will be happy and he will say, 'The chance I gave him was not for nothing. It was worth it.' "