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home > community > viewpoint > the olympic marathon - women run for gold on sunday

The Olympic Marathon - Women Run For Gold on Sunday
So far it's been a women's Olympic Games in Atlanta. Perhaps then we can expect a great women's marathon on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., when over 100 of the world's best marathoners line up for a 26.2 mile run through the streets of Atlanta.

The Olympic Marathon - Women Run For Gold on Sunday

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By Don Allison
Posted Thursday, 25 July, 1996

So far it's been a women's Olympic Games in Atlanta. Perhaps then we can expect a great women's marathon on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., when over 100 of the world's best marathoners line up for a 26.2 mile run through the streets of Atlanta.

There has been plenty of controversy already concerning both the men's and women's 26 miler. Traditionally the men's marathon has been scheduled for late afternoon on the competition's final day, bringing the Games to a close. Tradition dies hard in the Olympic Games, and an acrimonious battle was waged between the International Olympic Committee, who fully intended on keeping the marathon in place, and the Atlanta Organizing Group (backed by medical experts from around the world), who pleaded for a change to early morning in order to minimize the stultifying conditions that permeate Atlanta in July. Reason won out in the end, and the both the men's and women's races will be held in early morning.

Which is not to say it is exactly going to be cool. In addition to the weather, runners will have to contend with some wicked hills during the middle of the course. Much like the marathon in Barcelona, these will be races for the medals, not times or world records.

The women's race looks to be the more interesting of the two, featuring the globe's top marathoners, many with distinct personalities. Here are how a few of the favorites shape up:

  • Uta Pippig - To many, Uta IS women's marathoning, especially here in these parts. Uta is on record as saying she would much rather win Boston that the Olympic Marathon. This is an issue we will address in a moment, but the question is, does Uta really believe that now? Will she have the will to drive herself on a hot and hilly route? It's been quite a while since another woman finished ahead of Uta in a 26 miler. She will carry the weight of heavy favorite with her to the starting line.

  • Elana Meyer - The South African already has a silver medal at home, from the 10,000 meters in Barcelona. Meyer has been soundly beaten twice at Boston by Pippig and it appears to have stuck in her craw a bit. She recently said "You can't say Pippig will win, because there are too many factors involved. I've never been in better shape and I love the tactical side of the race."

  • Liz McColgan - There was a time when McColgan was the next great women's distance runner. She placed second in the Seoul 10,000 and won New York City easily in her marathon debut. Beset by over training injuries in recent years, McClogan's star has faded. Her win at London indicated she has regained her form and her bravado as well. She told the London Times after that race "I would advise you to put a bob (bet) or two on me in Atlanta."

  • Tecla LaRoupe - Little Tecla should have no problem with the expected heat and humidity. Though no one seems to be predicting LaRoupe or any of her African teammates, she will be very tough to shake if she is still in the hunt at 20.

  • Manuela Machado - Machado from Portugal has international pedigree, having competed in many world cross country championship races and also having won the marathon at last year's world championships. Through no fault of her own, Machado was the victim of an official's error and ran a lap short of the 26.2 miles, thus tainting her win slightly and robbing her of a PR opportunity. They will run 26.2 for certain in Atlanta, and Machado may just break the tape there, as well.

  • Valentina Yegerova - The Russian Yegerova has done nothing to really distinguish herself from the pack - except win the marathon gold medal in Barcelona. She is also a proven heat runner, but it's tough to repeat.

  • The Japanese women - The Japanese women are mostly interchangeable and nameless, but they have 4 of the top 6 times in the world so far in 1996 and have been a factor in each women's Olympic Marathon.

  • Lorraine Moller - The New Zealander fully believes she can compete head to head with the younger ladies, despite having turned 40 last year. A smart and tough competitor, Moller won a marathon bronze in Barcelona. Bet on her for first masters, for sure.

  • Jenny Spangler - Can the fairly tale continue for Jenny? Or will she go down in history as a trials wonder who faded to anonymity in the Games? It's difficult to dismiss Spangler's 2:29 on a challenging course in the trials. It's also difficult to envision her beating all of the women mentioned above. Anything is possible, but a top ten finish will be a huge accomplishment for Spangler, who has been a breath of fresh air to US women's marathoning.

    In 1984, Joan Samuelson ran through the tunnel into the Olympic stadium in Los Angeles. Leading the first ever women's Olympic Marathon, Samuelson knew "her life would never be the same" in her words. She was about to win the race every woman in the world wanted to win. Sure enough, Samuelson won the race splendidly and went on to assume a role as a spokeswoman for the sport and a highly respected competitor.

    As big city marathons have turned into big money marathons, has some of the luster come off the Olympic Marathon? A few decades ago it would have been laughable to think Boston was a more prestigious victory than the Olympic Games. Is it possible that Pippig was right? Does she value her Boston championships more than Olympic Gold? It says here she would secretly be happy to trade one of those Bostons for Olympic metal of any color, prize money or shoe company endorsement notwithstanding. And if she doesn't feel that way, there are over 100 of the globe's premier marathoners in Atlanta who do. Who will win the medals? I'll call it a Meyer Miracle, as the South African wins in a close race. Machado second, Pippig third. We'll all find out on Sunday.



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