Abera beats 'blow hard'
Wind puts the whip to marathoners
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
SYDNEY - Apparently there's an old expression in marathon running.
"Don't do the next marathon until you've forgotten the last one,'' says Canadian Bruce Deacon.
It'll be a while before they start thinking about the marathon at the World Championships in Athletics in 2001. This one is going to take a while to forget.
OK. Gezahgne Abera of Ethiopia is going to remember it forever. He won it. He's going home a hero with Ethiopia's fourth gold of these Games.
And Eric Wainaina of Kenya and Tesfaye Tola of Ethiopia, along with the other podium people, will probably have fond enough memories.
It wasn't fun manufacturing them.
"At 17 kilometres I fell,'' said the youngest man, at 22, ever to win the gold medal in the Olympic marathon. "I fell because of the high winds and the group jamming together. Very strong winds. It was terrible. Very windy. The wind blew in front and sideways.''
The bronze medallist spoke of the race the same.
"It was very windy. We got pushed around. The conditions weren't helpful to anyone.''
You can imagine the rest of the field ...
"That was a very tough race,'' said Pinto Antonio of Portugal who finished 11th.
"The wind was so strong it took so much more effort than normal.''
The lone Canadian wasn't arguing.
"I'm a little knockered,'' said Deacon, the Victoria marathoner who plans on becoming a preacher when he calls it a career, which may be soon after finishing 44th in this field of 100.
He didn't have a prayer.
"That's the toughest marathon I've ever run,'' he said.
"I fell on the first 15 metres. I was pushed from behind into the pavement. I've never gone down before.''
He got up and almost ended up kissing the pavement twice more in the first two kilometres.
"It's the Olympics, so you stick it out,'' he said.
"The wind was horrendous. When we were going through downtown the water bottles were being blown off the tables.
"I've run through rain storms, thunderstorms, 36-degree heat, two-degree cold and ... I'm telling you, that's the toughest marathon I've ever run.''
ENTERING THE STADIUM
Despite the wind, hundreds of thousands lined the routes through Sydney and most of the 110,000 who would attend the closing ceremonies were in their seats to greet them when they entered the stadium.
The crowd was a factor.
Domingos Castro of Portugal was hit in the eye by a spectator.
"It was an accident,'' he said.
"I know he didn't mean to hit me. But it made it very uncomfortable for a while. I lost concentration on the race because I had to pay attention to my eye.''
The marathon was the last event in track and field of the Olympics. It will be the first event of Edmonton 2001.
These guys who have to wait around until the last day of the Olympics and then are too pooped to party, will start their race at the World championships before the opening ceremonies and end it after the opening ceremonies.
Which means they had best be prepared to get the ceremonies over in no longer than two hours, 10 minutes and 11 seconds. That's how long it took for Abera to win this one.