Up-and-Down Day Ends on High Note : Pan Am Games: After winning hurdles, Kingdom has his victory taken away and then restored.


Unaccustomed in recent years to seeing so many reporters eagerly awaiting him after a race, U.S. hurdler Roger Kingdom decided to turn the occasion into a Pan American Games moment, rising from the chair where he was regaining his breath to take a photograph. But as he did so, the chair collapsed, dropping him on his posterior.

He would not have believed it then, but that would not be the low point of his afternoon.

An hour and a half after winning the 110-meter hurdles Tuesday at the Municipal Sports Park, becoming the first track and field athlete and only the third athlete in any sport to win Pan American gold medals 12 years apart, he learned that he had been disqualified after a judge beside the track ruled that Kingdom deliberately ran into the ninth of 10 hurdles.

Then 2 1/2 hours later, the six-member jury of appeals, ruling on a protest by U.S. officials, overturned the decision, restoring Kingdom to first place with a time of 13.39 seconds, dropping Cuba’s Emilio Valle Alvarez to second in 13.40, the United States’ Courtney Hawkins to third in 13.54, and Cuba’s Eric Batle Herrera, who ran 13.72, off the stand for the medals that will be awarded today, about 24 hours later than scheduled.


If there is one thing Kingdom has learned in the last five years, it is patience. After becoming only the second man to win the high hurdles in consecutive Summer Olympics--1984 and ‘88--and setting a world record of 12.92 in 1989, he since has been recuperating from one injury after another, one to his right knee that twice required surgery.

Even Kingdom, 32, realizes that winning the Pan Am Games against a field that included no hurdler ranked among the top seven in the world last year does not qualify as a successful comeback, but it is a start.

“I feel this race, to me, was a steppingstone to getting back on top, running with the guys who were having so much fun while I was injured,” he said immediately after the race. “I feel good to be here and start the rebirth. This is Phase 1.

“I want to prove to people I am still in the game. Everybody tried to retire me. No, I was injured, not retired.”

The next phase, he said, would be to qualify for this summer’s World Championships in Sweden--”the only title I do not have on my shelf or my wall”--and then for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, near his birthplace of Vienna, Ga.

“I like to think about calling it quits right there, with a gold medal where I was born,” he said.


Except for crossing the finish line first with a burst of energy in the last five meters that enabled him to edge Alvarez, there was nothing in Kingdom’s race Tuesday to warrant such optimism.

He grazed the first three hurdles, rallied to lead after the next four, then hit the last three, colliding so violently with the eighth that it flipped into the air and bruised his leg. In trying to regain his balance, he appeared to almost run through the ninth hurdle.

The judge nearest to that hurdle ruled that Kingdom did not try to clear it, creating a potential safety hazard to the competitors in the lanes next to his.

Kingdom, who was last disqualified for that infraction 11 years ago, said that a fast track combined with a tail wind made it difficult for him to time his steps between hurdles, but he was agitated by the suggestion that he ran into the hurdle on purpose.

“If I’m out front, why would I put my heel through a hurdle to give the other guys a chance to catch up?” Kingdom said. “I’m one of the bigger hurdlers, and I knew that with the wind at my back I would run into hurdles. Would they have been happier if I had fallen?

“If you go to American races, especially the Olympic trials or the qualifiers for the worlds, those are intense races. There are a lot of hurdlers going down. If (the judges here) were watching there, they would disqualify all of us.


“Nothing’s changed. As far as I’m concerned, I won the race. I’ll go back home and keep with the program and blow this little race off.”

The jury later ruled that nothing indeed had changed, with even the Cuban representative, former Olympic champion Alberto Juantorena, agreeing that the initial call by the judge was erroneous.

“All I can say is ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ ” Kingdom said, “because correct is correct.”