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Monday, August 7, 2000

Nolan's 80% misses Sydney trip by 13.3%

 LASALLE -- Canadian decathlon champion Mike Nolan won the battle yesterday but lost the war.

 And what a war it is, this 10-event test of speed, strength and even science. Science is critical in the case of the 28-year-old Dorchester dynamo, whose 7,555 points to win the championship left him shy of the Canadian Olympic Association standard of 8,050 points.

 "It's a tough sport," said Nolan, who missed the Atlanta Olympic team four years ago by just 64 points. "You give it 100 per cent but everything has to be at an optimum. I didn't leave anything in the tank but sometimes, it's not enough."

 One might ask about the gas in the tank. Along with the usual nagging injuries, rumours suggest his doctors are working on something else.

 "I'm at about 80 per cent," he said. "I'm running a little on watered-down gas," he added cryptically.

 There are a couple of ways of looking at this. Anyone who can lead all the way and mount the points he did with what seems to be less than full power is capable of a surge once things are corrected.

 "Things are starting to get better," he said. "I'm just going to relax and get healthy."

 For the 2004 Olympics?

 "I'm looking at 2001 first," the Dorchester native said.

 James Holder of Calgary was second with 6,917 points, Lee Myrick of Sackville, N.S., third with 6,704.

 You could sense some relief from Catherine Bond-Mills after completing her 14th and final Canadian heptahlon championship. She was well off the Olympic standard of 6,050 points after finishing the competition with a victorious 800 metres for 5,457 points and third place.

 A competition in the Netherlands in two weeks likely will be the London pharmacist's last as a competitor and she'll probably take a break from coaching.

 "I need to stay away from the sport for a while," she said after a CBC cameraman took a greeting from her that the network will add to other high-profile athletes for viewing by the Olympians who are going to Australia next month.

 "I'm going, even if it's as a magnetic particle," she quipped.

 There was more a tone of hope than sadness in her, though, hope for upcoming heptathletes.

 "Maybe it's a bit melodramatic but I can pass the torch," she said. "We have some great junior heptathletes. And we've got a large group of high jumpers and pentathletes coming to Western (where she helps coach)."

 Heather Brand of London-Western finished ninth and Deanna Zelinka, whose younger sister, Jessica, won the Canadian junior heptathlon Saturday, was 10th.

 As with all these competitions, melancholy mixes with merriment. Marsha Mark of Trinidad was big in the merriment department after hitting her national standard right on the nose. A nano-second slower or millimetre shorter over the two days would have meant no trip to Sydney.

 "I can't tell you what it means to me," the Utah university student said after attaining 5,750 points, the precise number needed by her association and second place here. "I'm the only heptathlete in Trinidad-Tobago so there's no competition for me at home."

 It didn't work that way for Nicole Haynes, who has dual Canada-U.S. citizenship. The Los Angeles native, who won the event with 5,838 points, failed to attain the standard but didn't meet the six-months resident criterion for the Canadian team, anyway.

 The issue of standards always comes up this time of year, especially when there are such wide ranging ones from country to country. A third-place finisher can make a national team with fewer points than a competition winner whose national association demands more.

 "What troubles me is it frustrates some kids and they drop out," said veteran University of Windsor coach Dennis Fairall. "I'll guarantee you that no Canadians would go and embarrass anybody."