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Sunday, August 13, 2000

So, who is this Greek White Hope?

  VICTORIA -- Last year, when asked if there was any sprint talent coming up in Canada, Donovan Bailey said something about a Greek kid from Montreal.

 Everyone sort of shrugged at that one. A Greek kid from Montreal? Yeah, right.

 Well, it turns out Bailey was right on the mark. At the Canadian track and field championships yesterday, which also acts as the Olympic trials, Nicolas Macrozonaris came out of nowhere to record a time of 10.19 in the semi-finals -- good enough it is believed to place him on Canada's Olympic team for the 100, joining Bailey and Surin, who won yesterday's 100 final in 10.05 seconds.

 The final decision will be made by Athletics Canada officials tonight. MACROZONARIS

 "There you go," Bailey said after the semis. "A white guy for you guys."

 So, who is Nicolas Macrozonaris? Well, he's white, as Bailey pointed out, which, quite frankly, is unusual in world-class sprinting these days.

 Someone quipped that he is the "Greek White Hope."

 At 19, and with only two years of serious training behind him, Macrozonaris might be considered a bit of a phenom. Prior to yesterday's semis and final, which he ran fourth in 10.25 seconds, his personal best was 10.38.

 ALWAYS HAD SPEED

 Macrozonaris didn't start sprinting until high school, although he always had speed.

 "I was always the fastest guy on my teams," Macrozonaris said. "They called me Ben Johnson."

 A couple of years ago, when he began sprinting, Macrozonaris told his father Spiro, who was born in Greece, that he would make the 2000 Sydney team.

 "He got ticked off because he thought I was exaggerating."

 Macrozonaris' mother, Doris, is French- Canadian.

 "He's a great kid with a great attitude," Bailey said. "He's also a big kid, with big long strides, like myself."

 Macrozonaris said he was speechless after his 10.19 romp in the semis. The easy-going sprinter said he was confident before the semis after talking to Surin, his role model.

 "Just before the race, he grabbed me on the shoulder and said: 'You can do this,' " Macrozonaris said. "He's such a great guy."

 And Macrozonaris came though in spectacular style, as did Surin, who managed the 10.05 despite letting up after 80 metres because of a twinge in his left hamstring.

 Surin, 33, said his leg is fine, but he will miss a couple of days of training and probably next Friday's Herculis Zepter competition in Monte Carlo. Bailey is expected to return to action at that competition.

 Surin said he would have run well under 10-flat if his hamstring didn't act up, and if Bailey, who received an injury exemption to the Olympic team, was in yesterday's event.