- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Ace of Clubs
For two days last month two dozen young men and women gathered in a Las Vegas conference room to listen to presentations on financial planning, tax law and the roles of the Internet and television in their lives. They argued, bonded and discussed the future of their organization and their profession. They acted just like business people on a corporate retreat—which is what they were.
They were not, however, your ordinary executives or Dilbert-style cubicle dwellers. They were track and field athletes, members of the high-profile, often controversial Los Angeles-based club, HSInternational. Founded in 1996 by sports attorney Emanuel Hudson and coach John Smith, HSI has become one of the strongest groups in the sport. Indeed, HSI athletes could well win more track medals in Sydney than all but a handful of countries. It has also come to be resented by many in track's old guard for reasons ranging from the candor of HSI athletes to their HSI flag-waving celebrations to the fact that they run fast and win lots of races.
To HSI's list of crimes, add its businesslike approach, as rare in track and field as fat milers. Hudson, a 44-year-old Oakland native who made a small fortune as a litigator for Saudi Arabian clients, was introduced to track when he took on Smith, a former U.S. Olympic 400-meter man, as a client after Smith had guided unknowns Quincy Watts (400 meters) and Kevin Young (400-meter hurdles) to gold medals at the 1992 Olympics. Together they have built a full-service management company with a roster of 22 athletes. Smith coaches 16 of them, including 100-meter world-record holder Maurice Greene, 200-meter world champion Inger Miller and 1998 200-meter national champion Gentry Bradley, all of the U.S., and two-time Olympic bronze medalist and 1997 world 200-meter champion Ato Boldon of Trinidad. When Smith's athletes run and lift together at UCLA—where he is also on staff as a sprint coach—they represent the most potent concentration of track talent in the world.
Another half-dozen athletes, including American pole vault record holder Jeff Hartwig and six-time U.S. high jump champion Tisha Waller, are managed by HSI but do not train in L.A. For all HSI athletes Hudson negotiates appearance fees, pursues endorsements and lines up investment and tax help.
At the Las Vegas retreat athletes ranging in wealth from Greene and Boldon, who have seven-figure incomes, to just-out-of-college rookies were instructed in the basics of investment and tax management. NBC Olympics producer Sam Flood and media consultant Lewis Johnson led seminars to prepare HSI members for the scrutiny of the Olympic year. "We're trying to mimic what happens in the corporate world," says Hudson. "Too often athletes get no support."
Boldon, who joined HSI immediately after graduation from UCLA in 1996, says, "What we do is simple and logical. I don't think we're reinventing the wheel." Well, if not, they are at least retooling the spiked shoe.
Number 1 Downhill Challenge
Hermann Maier of Austria may be a world and Olympic champion with the coolest nickname in skiing and a gaudy 352-point lead in the overall World Cup standings this season, but the Herminator still hasn't won his sport's most prestigious race. He placed fourth in the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbühel Austria, last Saturday, a day after winning the Super G there. At the downhill finish, a dejected Maier said, "I thought at one point I should get off my skis and push."
Austrians won three of four events and took eight of the top 10 downhill places in the Hahnenkamm, or "rooster's comb," named for the distinctive red cliffs above the 900-year-old Tyrolean village. The Hahnenkamm's southern hill, the Streif, is Mecca to ski racers, many of whom have found religion on its plunging turns. The downhillers face a drop of 860 meters at speeds of up to 100 mph. They usually pass sections called the Mousetrap—the race started below it this year because of fog—and Steep Wall even before they enter the narrow flats and icy jumps that threaten disaster. In 1989 Brian Stemmle of Canada wound up on life support after a fall at Steep Wall snapped his pelvis.