Gray Predicting Faster Times in 800 Meters

Times Staff Writer

The 800 meters is undergoing a revolution, middle-distance runner Johnny Gray said Tuesday.

"If you thought there were some fast 800s last year," he said, "wait until you see what happens this year and in the future."

Gray spoke at a luncheon introducing athletes who will participate in Friday's Times/Kodak Indoor Meet at the Forum.

A product of Crenshaw High and Los Angeles City College, Gray now represents the Santa Monica Track Club. He will compete in the 1,000-yard run Friday, facing Don Paige, the world indoor record-holder, among others.

Gray, 24, raced to the forefront in the 800 last summer after finishing a disappointing seventh in the Los Angeles Olympics.

He went to Europe for a series of meets, and broke the U.S. record in the 800 four times. His best time, 1:42.96, is the fourth-fastest 800 ever and almost five seconds faster than his 1:47.89 in the Olympics.

"Generally," Gray said, "the people who won Olympic medals had set goals and accomplished them. They came away satisfied and didn't perform at their best in Europe.

"I had set a goal and failed to accomplish it. I went to Europe determined to show people I had been capable of doing better in the Olympics. It (his European accomplishments) took a lot of sting out the way I had run in the Olympics."

Asked if he was prepared to maintain his post-Olympic pace, Gray nodded, saying he has a better understanding of the strategy in a race that has become a sprint, and a better understanding of himself.

"Until last year," he said, "I had never taken the time to develop my potential. I was lazy. If it was cold or rainy outside, I'd say, 'Hey, looks like a TV day,' and stay in. Now, I'm more consistent. Now, I don't miss my training. It took time for me to come around."

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