Bert Bonanno used to have a quiet little track meet at San Jose City College. Over the years, the meet got tremendous support from a community where many elite track and field athletes live and train. The meet eventually attracted big-time sponsors.
Now, Bonanno's little meet is called Bruce Jenner's Bud Light Classic, and it has athletes from 21 countries. Today's meet is also the first in a series of 15 meets on the International Amateur Athletic Federation's Mobil Grand Prix schedule, one of only two to be held in the United States.
Athletes are awarded points for placing in a Grand Prix meet, and the top eight finishers at the end are sent to Rome for the finals September 7. The Grand Prix means money but also means drug-testing.
"There's a lot of paperwork," Bonanno said. "The forms we have are for the IAAF and the TAC (The Athletics Congress). TAC has been great, which has helped. And we have had more entries from foreign athletes than we expected. As far as the drug-testing goes, I think it's the first time there has been testing at any meet in the United States except the Olympics and Olympic Trials."
The testing will be conducted in the same fashion as during the Games, and random samples will be sent to the Olympic lab at UCLA for analysis. Speculation is that some athletes using drugs will duck the Grand Prix meets, or at least the early ones, for fear of being caught. This talk was fueled late last week when the men's shotput competition was dropped. Meet organizers said there weren't enough competitors.
"We had a field of five throwers," Bonanno said. "Dave Laut didn't throw well in L.A. (67 feet 7 1/2 inches at UCLA for fourth) and he came back from a meet in Brazil ill. A couple of the other guys pulled out. The only one who really wanted to throw was Brian Oldfield. He thinks of this meet as his stage. I know people are going to say they pulled out because of the drug-testing. We just have to sit and take that kind of talk."
The cancellation of the shot is especially significant for San Jose. The meet showcases the event--installing a throwing ring in the center of the infield and stopping the entire meet during the competition. In addition, many top American throwers live in the San Jose area and have been entering the meet for many years.
The shotput competitors who miss the meet, however, will not be missing the prize money. Under the Grand Prix structure, certain events are designated as Grand Prix events in odd-numbered years, others in even-numbered years. The throwing events for men's discus and javelin are Grand Prix events this year, and the shotput will be one in 1986.
Under the scoring system, athletes are credited with points for placing first through eighth, and additional points are awarded for setting or equaling a world record. Athletes collect points over the season, and the one with the most points in each event wins $10,000. There are also overall men's and women's winners, with $25,000 given to the athlete with the most points overall. For example, since both the 100 meters and the long jump are Grand Prix events for women, the system allows athletes to combine points earned from each event and apply them to the overall standings.
A similar Grand Prix has been operating since 1982 on the U.S. indoor circuit.
Featured events at the Jenner meet include:
--Steve Scott hoping to run his 100th sub-four minute mile. Scott is the American record-holder in the mile (3:47.69) and the 1,500 (3:31.96). Sydney Maree and Ray Flynn are also in the race.
--Grete Waitz running in the 3,000, marking the first time the marathon silver medalist has entered a track race in the United States.
--World record-holder Calvin Smith, Harvey Glance and Mel Lattany competing in the 100, and Smith, Kirk Baptiste and Larry Myricks going in the 200. Carl Lewis withdrew from the meet earlier this week because of an injury.
--Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Merlene Ottey-Page, sprinters who have traded wins this season, facing each other in both the women's 100 and 200.
--Gold medalist Joaquim Cruz and American record-holder Johnny Gray facing off in the men's 800. The women's 800 will have world record-holder Jarmila Kratochvilova and Americans Ruth Wysocki and Kim Gallagher.