Parting thoughts from U.S. Olympic Trials
Sure, it was fun to watch track and field superstars such as Stacy Dragila, Gail Devers, Allen Johnson and Marion Jones at the U.S.. Olympic Trials in Sacramento this past week.
But, in my own mind, some of the best stories were the human interest angles of athletes who aren’t necessarily regarded as big stars. Some may reach stardom one day. Others may not at all. Either way, it doesn’t take away from the stories.
So, here are some parting thoughts from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
— Faster than a speeding bullet
One fascinating story involved Sanya Richards, the 19-year-old sprint star who placed second in the women’s 400 meters on Saturday. Already the holder of numerous national junior and high school records, Richards has added 2003 USA national and 2004 NCAA indoor 400 titles for Texas to her resume. And next month, she will be a gold medal contender at the Olympics in Athens.
Maybe some of the credit should go to the necklace she wears, a bullet that her mother found and gave to her as a present.
“My mom gave it to me in the seventh or eighth grade. She told me it meant I was faster than a speeding bullet,” Richards said, flashing a smile to reporters. “I never take it off. It means the world to me. It’s really been one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten because it represents not only me being fast, but it comes from my mom, who believes in me 100 percent, and my dad.”
On Saturday, she ran 49.89 and narrowly missed a spot on the all-time American list.
“My road has been long, but it’s been great,” said Richards, a 4.0 student at St. Thomas Aquinas High (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) who now majors in business at Texas.. “We’re definitely going to represent this country well (in Athens). I think we can go for the top three.”
— Proud mom
Shalene Flanagan, who just completed her senior season atNorthCarolina, was rewarded for hard work in the women’s 5,000 final last Tuesday. She took the lead on the first lap and led all the way to the final lap on her way to third-place and Olympic berth.
No fan watched closer than her mother, Cheryl Treworgy, who was among the corps of media photographers waiting at the finish line. Nor was any fan happier.
“It’s like you’re living it with them, especially if you have been with the sport before,” Treworgy said. “I think that’s what makes it more special. If you’ve ever been in the sport and you’ve tried to attain a certain level on your own, you can appreciate how difficult it is to get to where they’re at. It’s special because you get to see someone living their dream and you’ve been with them every step of the way.”
This mom was a women’s world record holder when she ran as Cheryl Bridges in the 1960s and ’70s. She ran a women’s world marathon record time of 2 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds at Culver City in 1971, and before that, placed fourth at the 1969 world cross country championships. And this was at a time when women struggled to earn recognition in the sport – she was the first woman to receive an athletic scholarship from a public university when she entered Indiana State in 1966.
Treworgy has since created a line of sporting wear and has a Web site (www.PrettySporty.com) that promotes amateur athletes with photographs and stories from track and field events.
“I started my own Web site because as a runner, I was on five world teams and I had a world record and I only have a few clippings here and there,” Treworgy said. “Then when I became the parent of high school runners, I said ‘I want pictures of my kid,’ and I knew that I wasn’t the only parent who would want that.
“It doesn’t take much to take me back to my experiences. All I have to do is look at a photo and all of a sudden, I’m back there. I remember all the great times and great friends, great experiences and great lessons that I learned.”
— Real winner
Adriane Blewitt only placed fifth in the women’s shot put (54-2 1/2) on Friday, but her “I Kicked Cancer’s (Butt) shirt showed that she is a true winner. “I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and started chemotherapy in October,” she said. “I’ve been cancer-free since April and had three solid months of training after the chemo. This has totally changed my outlook on throwing and I have a great appreciation for my family and friends who supported me.”
— Golden arm
Breux Greer decided some time ago to pass up an opportunity to play professional baseball – he says his fast ball has been clocked at 98 mph – in favor of trying to win an Olympic medal in the javelin.
“I hear the question a lot just because baseball is so popular in this country, but I prefer to make light of the javelin,” Greer said. “There are a million people out there who can say they’ve played pro baseball, but not that many can say they’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics. I want to be the one, not just one of the guys.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Greer’s efforts have been rewarded with five national championships, including a gold medal in Saturday’s finals and an American record mark of 285 feet, 5 inches. He was a finalist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and his goal is to climb up on the medal stand next month in Athens.
— First major victory
Jarred Rome had good cause to celebrate his gold medal throw of 215 feet, 9 inches in the men’s discus on Sunday. “This is the first time I’ve ever been No. 1,” the 27-year-old said. “I was never a state champion (at Marysville-Pilchuck High School) and I never won NCAAs (at Boise State).”
He was a Big West Conference discus champion and second-place finisher at the NCAA meet in 1997. And he threw 221-9 at a tune-up meet before the Trials, so t was ready for a big performance after a nine-month intensive training period at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Interestingly enough, he only decided to get serious about throwing after going down with an MCL injury before the start of senior football season in high school.
“I got hurt during double days and never played a game. I decided not to play basketball that year, either, because I thought (track and field) would be my best chance for college (athletics),” Rome said.
Rome, who now stands 6-foot-4, 315 pounds training partner, will go to Athens along with training partner Ian Waltz, who placed second Sunday.
Dave Price can be reached at 881-1220 or at firstname.lastname@example.org