Rosa Mota of Portugal, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, has entered the Los Angeles Marathon, giving the March 5 race a much-needed elite athlete to bring the caliber of the field up to the level of the race's marketing.
Mota, 30, will be running in her first race here since she finished third in the 1984 Olympic marathon, a race which propelled her into international running's upper echelons. In 1984, Mota was a shy and reticent runner who seemed awed to be in the same company of the gold and silver medalists, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Grete Waitz.
Since then, her running has fared far better than Samuelson or Waitz. Mota has been ranked No. 1 in the world for the past two years.
The announcement of Mota's entry here is a surprise, considering it is two weeks before the race, but Bill Burke, race president, said last month that he was trying to negotiate for Mota.
Mota was expected to run in the Boston Marathon April 17, where most of the world's elite women runners will gather.
Her entry here may have been prompted by John Hancock Financial Services, which sponsors many elite runners. Mota, it seems, has been summoned by John Hancock to help the Los Angeles race, which, aside from signing last year's winner Blanca Jaime of Mexico, had no elite international or domestic runners entered.
The bulk of the men's field here is sponsored by John Hancock.
Mota is a two-time winner at Boston and at Chicago and has gained a reputation for grittiness that is in contrast to her tiny (5-feet-1, 99 pounds) stature. She had little trouble in winning the Olympic race at Seoul, where she ran 2 hours 25:39 minutes in hot, humid weather. Mota trains in Oporto, Portugal, and Boulder, Colo.
Since the Olympics, Mota entered a marathon at Osaka, Japan, Jan. 31, but dropped out after 16 miles with a slight muscle pull.
Mota won the 1987 marathon World Championships. Her 2:24:30 in winning Boston in 1988 was the second-fastest marathon of the year, behind Australian Lisa Martin's 2:23:51.