Leaping into the limelight
By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
VICTORIA -- A few years ago, the only microphones Mark Boswell faced were in a karaoke bar.
Now, the Brampton high jumper is almost as popular with the media and public as his pals on the sprint team.
The attention is all a little overwhelming.
"It has been a big change for me and I'm just trying to get a grip on everything," Boswell said yesterday, as he prepared for this weekend's Canadian track and field championships.
"(All of this) is kind of rushed, but I've got to accept it and deal with it in a positive way, because a lot of youngsters out there are looking up to us and it's a role I welcome," he said.
Boswell is a hot ticket at these championships as a result of his spectacular silver-medal winning performance at last year's world championships in Seville, Spain -- clearing a Canadian-record height of 2.35 metres on his final attempt.
There has been speculation all week that the former University of Texas star would pull out of these championships because of an ankle injury, but Boswell confirmed yesterday that he will compete tomorrow. He could have requested an injury exemption on to the Olympic team, as injured sprinter Donovan Bailey chose to do.
Boswell acknowledged that competing in cool, windy Victoria is a bit of a risk, but the jumper insisted he owes it to the Canadian public to compete at home.
Boswell hurt his right ankle playing basketball last December and, because he overcompensates for the weakness, his left ankle and hip are also chronically sore. The only cure for these ailments is rest -- a concept that is foreign to Brampton athlete.
"I think I'll be all right as long as I don't stress it or (overturn on) the ankle," he said. "I just have go out there and stay low-level, focus on what I have to do and be technical."
Boswell, whose leap of 2.35 metres this year ranks him fifth heading into next month's Sydney Olympics, has been bombarded with questions about the International Amateur Athletic Federation allowing world record-holder Javier Sotomayor of Cuba (2.45) into the Olympics, even though he was serving a two-year ban for cocaine use. Many expected the Boz to be angered by the situation, given that Sotomayor's presence in Australia decreases his chances of winning a medal. That's not the case, although he did express disappointment with the man he describes as one of his main heroes in sport.
"God says to forgive and forget, that's basically what I've got to do," Boswell said. "It's a bizarre situation, but I respect Soto, I respect what he has done on the track, he has had an incredible career, he has motivated me to do so many things ... but his personal life is his personal life, I can't really judge it."
Boswell said he is confused about why Sotomayor would have tested positive for cocaine at last summer's Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. Cocaine is listed as a stimulant, therefore a performance-enhancing drug.
But many track experts say there are better stimulants and that athletes who use coke have problems that go beyond wanting to perform well.
"If they said he was on steroids, that would be a whole different situation," Boswell said. "But he did the eight-feet drug free and no one can question that."
Kwaku Boateng of Montreal, who is ranked sixth in the world (2.34), also will compete today.