On a Day of False Starts, U.S. Fires Blanks : Track and field: Americans are shut out in nine events; Cubans win six, Brazil three.
Frustration poured out of the U.S. track and field team here Monday, a day when the Americans seemed to do nothing right, and yet another in a series of days during which a Cuban team dominated competition.
Cubans won six of nine track events as hosts of the Pan American Games, Brazil won the remaining three and the United States was shut out. Few could remember a day when American athletes had failed to win even one event in an international meet.
And few on the U.S. team here will forget Monday’s frustrations, which included rain, wind, a rash of false starts and a controversy in the long jump.
Such was the day for Cuban athletes that they handily won events in which Americans were heavy favorites. Andre Cason, the world indoor champion, was beaten in the 100, owing, he says, to chaos at the start. Llewellyn Starks was beaten in the long jump, because, according to him, officials wrongly ruled his best jump a foul.
But as Americans struggled and searched for excuses, Cuban athletes turned in impressive performances on a breezy, rainy evening. Their efforts were rewarded by the polite applause of Cuban President Fidel Castro, who awarded the gold medal to Lialiana Allen of Cuba after she won the women’s 100 in 11.39.
The false-start problem was curious and seemed to affect everyone--there was even a false start in the 1,500.
The women’s 100 had one false start, which the sprinters complained about, and the men’s 100 was worse. The sprinters were asked to stand out of their blocks three times and there were two false starts charged. On the second, the runners had gone 20 meters before being called back.
When the race did get under way, Cason, of Virginia Beach, Va., stormed to the lead, which he held for 95 meters. That was until Robson Da Silva of Brazil caught him. Da Silva was timed in 10.32 and Cason in 10.35.
Cason complained later that there had been no false starts that he could detect.
“The false starts weren’t legit, no,” Cason said. “Then they let us go 20 meters and bring us back. That’s totally absurd. I was the odds-on favorite to win, of course. I am very, very, very disappointed.
“We (U.S. athletes) aren’t comfortable here. The Latin athletes are. I can’t eat the food. I’ve lost five pounds, just from sweating. I want to get out of here today.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s long jump, Starks was equally dissatisfied. His third jump, clearly his best, was called a foul. Starks sprang out of the pit and ran to the officials at the takeoff board, asking to see the mark his foot would have made in the putty-like surface of the foul board.
Starks said he looked and saw water marks but no mark from his foot or shoe. Since it was raining, Starks told the official, of course water drops would fall on the board. While Starks was arguing, pit officials raked over his mark.
Starks protested that, too, and finally, the head official ruled--without saying that there had been a mistake--that Starks would get another jump. One more argument ensued when Starks was told he could not take the jump immediately but would have to wait until the end of the competition.
He never improved and finished second with a jump of 26 feet 3 1/2 inches. Starks said he believed that his foul jump was about 27-4, which would have been good enough to win. “Long jumpers know when they foul,” he said. “I knew that it wasn’t a foul. I think it was kind of taken care of so it wouldn’t be measured.
“I don’t want the silver (medal) because I deserve the gold and they know I deserve the gold.”
Cuban Ana Quirot was impressive in the 400 meters, running a personal best of 49.61, the second-best time of the season. Quirot is a national hero and she revels in it. After her leisurely victory lap, Quirot launched into her standard political lecture.
“From the moment I took the track, I thought of my people, my revolution and my commandante,” she said. “This result is the product of the support of the people for sports.”
Quirot coyly refused to confirm what she said last week, that she will try a difficult triple--the 400, 800 and 1,500. “Maybe yes and maybe no,” she said.