John Smith, who has become one of the world's most accomplished track coaches, is a victim of his own success. After one of his 1992 Olympic gold medalists, quarter-miler Quincy Watts, left before the start of this outdoor season, the other, 400-meter intermediate hurdler Kevin Young, soon followed.
Both complained that Smith has attracted so many outstanding athletes to the track at Westwood that he no longer has time to give them the individual attention he once did.
Separating was particularly painful for Young because he and Smith had been a team since the hurdler first began to realize his potential six years ago at UCLA, where Smith is an assistant coach.
"But the closeness I had with Coach Smith as a collegiate athlete wasn't there any more," Young said last week. "He has a great number of elite athletes out there now. I tend to want to be more isolated. I want a closer connection to my coach."
While searching for a new coach, Young, 27, is moving from Reseda to Atlanta.
One of Smith's new international stars, France's Marie-Jose Perec, did not shy away from competition at the recent New York Games. The 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 meters chose that meet for her U.S. debut because she wanted to test herself against U.S. quarter-milers Jearl Miles and Natasha Kaiser-Brown. While Perec was concentrating on the 200, they were finishing one-two in the 400 in last summer's World Championships.
"I'm really happy to compete against them because I wanted to show that I am the best," said Perec, who did that by winning in 50.59 seconds. Miles was second in 50.68, and Kaiser-Brown was third in 51.01.
When she was born March 3, 1962, her great grandmother named her Jacqueline and predicted that some day the newborn child would be known as the first lady of whatever she chose to pursue.
Today, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the first lady of track and field.
After setting an American record with a long jump of 24-feet-7 in the New York Games, Joyner-Kersee said she had dedicated the performance to her namesake, the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
"Her strength was exemplary," Joyner-Kersee said. "If there's anything I want, it's the strength to be able to endure like she did, to be a classy lady like she was and to be able to raise children like her."
Item: Kim Zmeskal is returning to competitive gymnastics.
Comment: You've got to love a sport in which an athlete can rise to the top of the world, burn out before she reaches her first Olympics and announce her comeback at age 18.
Romanian gymnasts, who will meet the United States in a June 10-11 dual meet at Worcester, Mass., have received a pledge of $100,000 from their most famous predecessor. Nadia Comaneci, who defected to the United States from Romania in 1989, said that the money will come from her signature apparel line.
Among the athletes featured in the U.S. fencing championships, which begin next Saturday at Salt Lake City, is L.A. native Nick Bravin, the 1991 and '92 foil champion. Regardless of his results in the nationals, he already has earned a berth in this summer's World Championships in Greece.
Responding to an article by Ian Thomsen in the International Herald Tribune that questioned Atlanta's ability to organize an Olympics as gracefully as Barcelona and Lillehammer did, the Atlanta Journal Constitution criticized the foreign press for its "pedantic arrogance" that borders on "outright hostility" toward the city.
Thomsen is from Portland, Ore.
Atlanta is taking hits from all sides. During a speech in which he discussed the organizing committee's financial balancing act, International Olympic Committee executive board member Richard Pound caused a furor by describing the decision to award Atlanta the Games as a "dreadful mistake."
He later told USA Today that he intended the remark as a joke. Pound, who is Canadian, made the speech to a largely Canadian audience at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and said he was referring to the fact that one of the cities bypassed when the IOC elected Atlanta was Toronto.
"I guess this is what happens when you try to be funny during a speech," Pound said.
Here's hoping he doesn't stop because being funny is one of his special talents. In 1988, after the islands of the Seychelles announced a boycott of the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Pound said: "The Seychelles? They're only a country at low tide."