Canada’s best are vying for Olympic team spots at this week’s trials in Victoria
Despite 40° C heat that made the burnt-orange track at the University of Texas in Austin shimmer, Bruny Surin was getting ready for yet another training run. With coach Dan Pfaff watching closely, stopwatch in hand, Surin was completely focused, lost in the rap beat pounding out of his Walkman as he shook the tension out of each leg and arm. Finally, he doffed the headphones, pulled off his T-shirt and, with sweat streaming down his bare torso, bent at the waist and cocked a leg behind him. Ready, set...
“ GO BROOOONSYF The quiet and Surins concentration were completely shattered by a piercing shout coming from trackside benches where training partners Glenroy Gilbert, Trevino Betty and the loudmouthed culprit, Donovan Bailey, were resting. Instead of exploding down the track, Surin crumpled
with laughter. He turned and wagged a finger in mock reproach, only to have another round of insults and catcalls hurled his way. Surin shrugged them off, then reset and took off as only a worldclass sprinter can. When he sauntered back to the rest area, the others were still yammering and he was still grinning. “You cant take anything too seriously,” he says later. “Those guys wont let you.” Bulletin: going into the Aug. 11 to 13 Canada Dry Track & Field Championships in Victoria, and just weeks before the start of the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Canadas top sprinters were once again the Fun Bunch. In fact, the good-natured ribbing at their training sessions strongly resembles the easy relations the sprinters enjoyed before they left for Atlanta four years ago. They claim the much-publicized bickering between Surin and Bailey last year, over who should run the coveted anchor leg of the 4 x 100 relay at the world championships, is behind them, overtaken by a burning resolve to defend the Olympic
relay tide they won in 1996. That resolve was shaken a little when Bailey pulled a hamstring in a meet last week in Stockholm, and was likely to withdraw from the nationals in Victoria. But he vowed to be ready for Sydney. “We have lots of time now,” he said. “I’m not really worried.”
Baileys woes aside, this week’s track and field Olympic trials boast 30 competitors who have already achieved the necessary international standing to qualify for the Games. Among them are Kevin Sullivan, who set a new Canadian mile record last month, and Leah Pells, who finished fourth in the 1,500-m in Atlanta. With Mark Boswell, last year’s world silver medallist, and rising star Kwaku Boateng, the high-jump competition will have two of the top five jumpers in the world this season. “We are going there,” says Boateng, “with the goal that one of us is going to beat the Canadian record.”
The men’s 100-m, which will be shown live by CTV Sportsnet on Aug. 12, is a race within a race. Even with Bailey on the limp, Surin, the 1999 world silver medallist, will be pushed for top spot. And there will also be a compelling battle for second, third and fourth because those placings may well determine which runners will claim membership on the relay foursome bound for Sydney. The contenders include 1999 team members Betty and Gilbert, 1996 relay member Robert Esmie and newcomers Michael Nicolini, Pierre Browne and Jarek Kulesza. “It’s an outstanding field,” says Athletics Canada president John Thresher. “It will not be an easy job to make it out of the heats and into the final.” Bailey’s absence hurts the Olympic trials. Despite Surins recent dominance, Bailey was the headliner because fans still remember his wide-mouthed victory in world-record time in 1996. It will hurt more, though, if the injury proves more serious. That could dash Canadas hopes on the track in Sydney, and take the fun out of the bunch.
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