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Thursday, July 27, 2000

Gilbert relays glad tidings

Canada's 4x100 members finally on the same page


  Canadian sprinter Glenroy Gilbert said the 4x100-metre relay squad will be ready to challenge for the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, because the guys have buried the hatchet -- and not in each other's backs.

 "I want to assure Canadians that our squad will be okay," said the easy-going Gilbert, considered the conscience of the team. "A lot of stuff that was going on in the winter was just a lot of talk, a lot of egos getting in the way of the final result, which is to be in Sydney and to be able to compete against the Americans, the Brits, the Nigerians, the French, you name it.

 "But we're going to be more than ready to compete for the gold medal."

 There have been concerns since the 1999 world championships as to whether the two big guns, Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin, would work together on the relay team. They have been feuding over who would run the anchor leg.

 Traditionally, Bailey has run the anchor, but Surin demanded the spot last year based on his silver-medal winning performance in the 100 metres at the worlds.

 The clash of egos resulted in a change of order on a relay team that won two previous world championships and the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In the semi-finals, Gilbert and newcomer Trevino Betty -- who was slotted in the third leg, which Surin had run in previous years -- failed to connect on the exchange and the team was disqualified.

 That only exacerbated the bad feelings between Surin and Bailey. But Gilbert, considered the best second-leg man in the world, said the team members met in Austin, Tex., last week and worked out their problems. Gilbert said Bailey has been the one to bend the most for the betterment of team.

 "Donovan is a guy who surprises me from time to time because I always think 'Oh no, this guy is not going to budge.' But he has done more than his share to try to smooth things over between himself and Bruny," said Gilbert, who was at Varsity Stadium yesterday to lend advice to three kids who won the Adidas Forever Sport Challenge and will get to fly to Sydney in September for the Games.

 The Ottawa sprinter believes Bailey, the defending Olympic 100-metre champion, and Surin got caught up in the hype surrounding the disqualification at last year's worlds.

 "There are a lot of people outside the sport who rear their ugly heads, and that influences an athlete's judgment," he said.

 MORE DEBATE

 That isn't to say there won't be anymore debate over the anchor before Sydney, but Gilbert, 31, believes the issue will work itself out long before a final decision is made.

 Bailey has posted the fastest 100 of any Canadian this year, a 9.98 on June 27 in Lucerne. Surin's best time is 10.08 in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France on June 16. Generally, the fastest man on a sprint team runs the anchor. Last year, for the first time since Bailey exploded on to the scene during the early 1990s, it was Surin.

 Bailey left Toronto yesterday for Casablanca, Morocco, where he will run a 100 tomorrow, followed by races in Stockholm on Aug. 1 and London on Aug. 5.

 Surin, 33, is in Toronto receiving treatment and also will compete in London.