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Track / Mal Florence : Czech Wonder Woman’s Career Is About Over

Boycotts in the last three Summer Olympics have left lots of frustrated athletes in their wake, but perhaps none of them was more disappointed than Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova. Her country was among the Eastern Bloc nations that boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

In town for Saturday’s Pepsi Invitational at UCLA, where she’ll run in the 400 meters and possibly the 800 as well, Kratochvilova said through interpreter Anna Pipasik Tuesday that she was very disappointed to have missed the Los Angeles Games because they were to have been her last Olympic competition in her remarkable career.

Kratochvilova, the Czech wonder woman, is 34 and says it is not possible for her to continue competing through the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.

She said that this will definitely be her last year of competition, although she added that she might extend her season into 1986 if she is invited to compete here in the indoor Sunkist Invitational.

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Those who were at Helsinki, Finland, for the world championships in 1983 will never forget her. On four consecutive days, the muscular, indefatigable Kratochvilova ran seven races, four at 400 meters and three at 800.

She won the 800 final only 34 minutes after having won her 400 semifinal. A day later, she won the 400 in the world-record time of 47.99 seconds. She had set a world 800 record of 1:53.28 a month earlier.

Last year, Kratochvilova was bothered by a sciatic nerve problem and was not as dominant as she had been in 1983. Even so, she beat Valerie Brisco-Hooks, a triple Olympic gold medalist, three times in 400-meter races in Europe.

Kratochvilova and her coach, Miroslav Kvac, conceded Tuesday that Brisco-Hooks had suffered a post-Olympic letdown in Europe after winning the 200- and 400-meter races, and running a leg for the United States’ winning 1,600-meter relay team at the Coliseum.

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Kratch, as she is known, announced Tuesday she will run the 400 in the Pepsi meet and said she’ll make her decision on the 800 later this week. The races are only 45 minutes apart.

She said she would like to come close to her world records this year but wouldn’t be disappointed if she doesn’t break them. She has set some high standards.

No other woman has ever been under 48 seconds in the 400 and only two women have ever beaten 1:54 in the 800. By comparison, Mary Decker Slaney holds the American 800 record at 1:57.60.

Brisco-Hooks, who holds the U.S. records in the 400 (48.81), and the 200 (21.81), said Monday at a track luncheon that she’ll run the 200 Saturday because she has been concentrating on her speed work.

“I probably won’t run a 400 until June or July,” she said.

Kratochvilova said she wasn’t disappointed that Brisco-Hooks won’t be running against her in the 400. She believes that she’ll compete against Brisco-Hooks later in the season, and would like to also go against East Germany’s Marita Koch, another outstanding athlete who is reportedly in her final year of competition.

“If Jarmila has good results this year, maybe I can talk her into another season,” Coach Kvac said.

Kratochvilova smiled at her coach and then shook her head.

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Brisco-Hooks said she plans to return to Europe this summer, if for no other reason than to gain some respect from Track & Field News.

That publication ranked Brisco-Hooks fourth in the world last year in the 200 and 400, behind Eastern Bloc athletes. The post-Olympics losses influenced the rankings.

“Some East Germans beat me a couple of times but it wasn’t taken into consideration that I was in the Games and they weren’t,” she said.

Brisco-Hooks is passing up the 400 Saturday, but she won’t lack for competition in the 200. She’ll be opposed by Jamaican Merlene Ottey-Page, the Olympic bronze medalist in the 200.

Brisco-Hooks said her goals this season were to go under 10.90 seconds in the 100, to break the world record in the 200 and to run 48.5 or better in the 400. Koch is the world 200 record-holder at 21.71.

Ottey-Page challenged Brisco-Hooks by saying: “If she is going to break the world 200 record, it will be broken by both of us.”

Meanwhile, the Jamaican sprinter has moved to the head of the class at 100 meters, having recorded her best time of 10.92 in the Mt. San Antonio College Relays April 28, making her the fourth best performer of all time.

Asked whether she considered herself the fastest woman in the world, Ottey-Page said: “I think so. I’ll try for 10.8, then 10.7.”

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Evelyn Ashford is the world record-holder at 10.76.

Ottey-Page said she has never run so fast so early in the season and that she prefers the 200 to the 100.

“In top shape, I think I can run 21.6,” she said.

Ashford is regarded as the world’s best woman sprinter, but the Olympic 100-meter champion is pregnant and taking the year off.

So, in her absence, there’s a scramble for the top sprint ranking.

Kim Gallagher, the Olympic silver medalist in the 800, is hoping that Kratochvilova will run that race Saturday. Gallagher will be in the field, for sure.

Gallagher doubts that Kratochvilova is in world-record shape, though, so early in the season.

“If she is, I’ll just go out with her and hang on and try not to let her get too far ahead in that first lap,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher’s impression of Kratochvilova? “She’s just incredible.”

The Occidental College men’s and women’s teams will compete for national titles in the NCAA Division III meet starting Monday at Dennison University in Dennison, Ohio. The Occidental teams recently won the titles in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Among those competing for Occidental at Dennison will be senior Doug Porter, two-time Division III men’s decathlon champion, and sophomore Shawn Lawson, the defending champion in the women’s heptathlon.

Track Notes

Jarmila Kratochvilova is here with two of her countrymen, discus throwers Imrich Bugar, the 1983 world champion, and Gejza Valent. They will also compete in the Jenner Invitational May 25 at San Jose and the Prefontaine meet June 1 at Eugene, Ore. Asked to comment on her nickname, Wonder Woman, Kratochvilova said: “It’s just a wonder that I have been able to compete so long.” . . . Jason Grimes, who will compete in the long jump Saturday against Carl Lewis, says that Lewis isn’t as fast as he or Larry Myricks on the runway. “But Carl converts his speed better on the board than anyone,” Grimes said. “On talent, Myricks is the greatest long jumper in the world. He just isn’t hitting it right. He has had some ungodly fouls.” . . . Myricks won’t be competing Saturday. He is reportedly upset about the way the long jump competition was conducted in last year’s Pepsi meet. . . . Grimes has a wind-aided mark of 28-1 1/2 recorded in 1982. He is negotiating with the Detroit Lions to become a wide receiver, although he admitted that he has never played organized football. UCLA distance runner Polly Plumer is undergoing tests at the school’s medical center. She is suffering from anemia due to internal bleeding, according to a UCLA spokesperson. . . . Al Franken, promoter of Saturday’s meet, said that high hurdler Roger Kingdom, the Olympic gold medalist, won’t compete, preferring instead a meet in Trinidad.


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