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Friday, August 11, 2000

Running mates

Bailey, Surin on same track


 VICTORIA- They're fast friends.

 Yes sir. Old pals. Best buddies.

 Listening to Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey tell it here yesterday, you'd think they grew up in the same sandbox.

 The way the two Canadian sprinters are now talking, they're going to race into the sunset together, almost hand in hand, for the greater glory of Canada.

 They're both here this weekend for the Canadian Track & Field Championships and Olympic Qualifying - Surin to compete and Bailey to, ahem, cheer him on - as they prepare to close their careers with one last Olympics, 35 days from now in Sydney, and one last World Championships, a year from now in Edmonton.

 "We established the most- feared relay team on the planet and we're not going to be satisfied with anything less than a gold medal,'' said Bailey of the Olympics and the Worlds that will close their careers.

 Gold-medal winners at the Athens Worlds and Atlanta Olympics, the Canadian 4 x 100 metre relay team made a mess of it at the Worlds in Seville last summer as Surin demanded to run the anchor and the squad squabbled all the way to the start line.

 "Last year we had some problems,'' said Surin. "We intend to make up for that in Sydney.''

 WHO WILL RUN ANCHOR?

 But ask them who will run anchor, and they don't have an answer.

 And you have to wonder who will be the other two guys carrying the baton.

 Can Glenroy Gilbert still get it done? Will somebody surface here this weekend who will do a better job than Brad McQuaig did in Seville?

 Can Bailey and Surin really complete their careers as fast friends?

 The two sat beside each other and did everything but hug each other here yesterday, making nice in public and making anybody who had never been around the Canadian sprinters before wonder about the supposed animosity between the two.

 "I was taught to be happy with who I am and I have no hate for anybody,'' said Surin.

 "People misunderstand what we do in the 100 metres,'' said Bailey. "We're out to win. We want to win. That's the problem. We drive each other to run faster and faster.''

 The 100 metres is on the first weekend of the Worlds. When it's over, Bailey and Surin go from being opponents to team-mates for the relay on the last weekend.

 "Last year Bruny was the only one running real fast,'' said Bailey.

 "But there's no animosity.''

 Bailey had been The Man until last year in Seville, when Surin won a silver medal and knew that one mistake involving two strides cost him a gold and the world record.

 It's Surin who heads to the Olympics as Canada's cover guy. For real. He's on the cover of Enroute magazine on all Air Canada flights.

 It's Surin who is here to tell the world he thinks he can set a world record before he gets to Sydney.

 "I think it's possible,'' he said. "I look at the tape from Seville and I know I can do it. I know if I hadn't made that one mistake I'd have done it. And having that happen to me gave me a little more experience.''

 He won last weekend. And he feels he's on track.

 "So far my season is going just the way I planned.''

 Surin says he goes into his last Olympics in a space he's never been before.

 "I'm running happy,'' he said. "The great mistake I made in the past was putting too much pressure on myself.''

 Bailey is coming off an injury but says he expects to be 100 per cent by Sydney. He says he's here because it's Canada.

 "We don't get to compete at home much. I couldn't compete physically but I could physically be here.''

 INTO THE SUNSET

 Organizers of Edmonton 2001 have certainly set it up for Surin and Bailey to run into the sunset together on Aug. 12, 2001. They've managed to get the IAAF to change the schedule so the 4 x 100 metre relay will be the final event of the championships.

 But first things first as they conspire to win Olympic gold for Canada in Sydney.

 Can they do it partnering with two others, whoever they are, who haven't been able to get under 10.20 this year?

 "We've got Glenroy Gilbert,'' Bailey said of the old pro who lives for the 4 x 100, and who he expects to finish second to Surin here and earn his trip to Sydney, instead of by putting up a time to pre-qualify him for the Olympics.

 "And we've got some young guys you'll see this weekend. There are a lot of good young kids. We have a good young talent pool. As for Bruny and I ...we're old. We're not dead.''

 The way they acted yesterday, if they were dead, they'd want to be buried side by side.

 But they're headed to Sydney and to Edmonton to be praised, not to be buried, they insist. Eh, mate?