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.
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
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
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
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
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.