Runyan Readies for 1,500-M Final

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Marion Jones' bid for history is over. Marla Runyan's personal quest already has succeeded, win or lose.

Jones' bronze medal in the long jump ended her drive for an unprecedented five gold medals at the Sydney Games. But winning a medal was not the only thing on Runyan's mind as she prepared for Saturday's 1,500-meter final.

Runyan, the first U.S. paralympian to reach the Olympics, knows her presence at the Sydney Games has given a boost to people around the world. And, with Runyan competing in the final, even more people will discover what a legally blind person can achieve.

She has received e-mails, letters and calls from countries ranging from Israel to Argentina congratulating her on reaching the Olympics, and thanking her for the example she has set.


Germany's Heike Drechsler, right, and the USA's Marion Jones during award ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Sydney on Friday. Drechsler won the gold medal in the women's long jump and Jones won the bronze. Italy's Fiona May captured the silver.

AP/Lionel Cironneau

At first she felt those messages put her under pressure, but then she realized what an opportunity she enjoyed.

``I have the opportunity to show the world -- kids that are losing their vision -- what life is going to be like. Now there's a girl who's legally blind, and she's in the Olympic final,'' Runyan said. ``I hope parents out there will say, `I'm going to let my child be whatever she wants to be.'''

Runyan will be joined by U.S. teammate Suzy Favor Hamilton in the final, one of nine on Saturday -- including four relays. Favor Hamilton is considered a top contender in an event in which no American woman has ever gotten a medal.

In the long jump Friday night, Heike Drechsler won with a leap of 22 feet, 11 1/4 inches (6.99 meters). Jones and Fiona May both jumped 22-8 1/4 (6.92), but May got the silver because her second-best jump was farther than Jones'.

Drechsler, who at 35 is more than a decade older than Jones, has been one of world's top long jumpers for 17 years. She won the first of her two world championships in 1983 -- when Jones was 7 years old.

American Nick Hysong won the pole vault with a clearance of 19 feet, 4 1/4 inches (5.90 meters). U.S. teammate Lawrence Johnson won the silver and Maxim Tarasov of Russia won the bronze.


U.S. pole vaulter Nick Hysong clears the bar in the final at the Summer Olympics in Sydney on Friday. Hysong won the gold medal and for the event.

AP/Eric Draper

Hysong is the first American to win the pole vault since 1968. Until then, the Americans had never lost in the event.

An amazing streak ended in the men's 1,500 meters. Hicham El Guerrouj, the Moroccan who had not lost at that distance since the end of 1997, was caught on the final stretch and defeated by Noah Ngeny of Kenya.

Ngeny won in an Olympic-record 3 minutes, 32.07 seconds. El Guerrouj won the silver and Bernard Lagat of Kenya won the bronze.

All four American relay teams moved into the finals, with the women's 400-meter relay shaping up as a battle between the world champions from the Bahamas, Jamaica and a U.S. squad that will have Jones as its anchor.

In the semifinals, an American team missing Jones finished in 42.82 seconds in its heat while the Bahamas won that race in 42.42. Jamaica won the other semi in 42.15.

Kamila Skolimowska of Poland won the women's hammer, Reuben Kosgei led a 1-2 finish by Kenyans in the steeplechase and Robert Korzeniowski of Poland completed his sweep of the men's walking medals at the Sydney Olympics by winning the 50-kilometer walk.


Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj is consoled after the 1500-meter final at the Olympics in Sydney on Friday. El Guerrouj, who won the silver medal, had not lost a race since the Atlanta Olympics. The gold went to Kenya's Noah Ngeny.

AP/Kevin Frayer

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