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  • Sunday, August 29, 1999

    Nice guys, Finnish, last

     SEVILLE, Spain (AP) -- Top Finnish athletics officials said their nation can no longer compete at the highest levels -- and they need more funding.
     "We need four times more money than we get now," said team leader Tapio Korjus, the men's javelin champion at the 1988 Olympics. "In Sydney (at next year's Olympics), the countries which put the most money into athletics will get the most medals. Standards are getting higher."
     Korjus and team coaches held an impromptu news conference with about 20 Finnish journalists Sunday in a hallway at the Estadio Olimpico to discuss the country's showing here.
     Before these championships, Finnish officials had set their sights on three medals and five other finishes between fourth and eighth place.
     But heading into Sunday's final day of action, the country's top showings were Tiia Hautala's fifth place in the heptathlon and Ville Tiisanoja's eighth place in the men's shot put.
     ------
     DRIVING AMBITION: Michael Johnson, fresh off setting the world record for 400 meters in Seville, has one more goal this season: the year's best time in the 200.
     That's what he told Van Damme meet organizer Wilfried Meert in signing up for Friday's event in Brussels, Belgium.
     "Where does he still get his motivation? He came in and just told me, 'I want the best time of the year,"' Meert said.
     Bronze medalist Francis Obikwelu of Nigeria posted the best 1999 time at 200 when he clocked 19.84 seconds in the semifinals at the World Championships.
     Johnson's best time was the 19.93 he ran at Rome in July. He set the world record of 19.32 at the 1996 Olympics, and is now only the second man ever to simultaneously hold the world marks in both the 200 and 400.
     The Brussels track is known for its fast curves and Meert said Johnson has already reserved lane 5.
     ------
     OLE, ABEL: The Spanish media used words of reverence normally reserved for soccer stars or toreadors to honor countryman Abel Anton's repeat gold medal in the marathon.
     Arms outstretched to heaven and draped in the red and yellow Spanish flag, Anton's image dominated the front pages of all the major daily newspapers Sunday, topped by words such as "apotheosis" "historic" and "heroic."
     El Mundo, a Madrid-based newspaper, carried an opinion piece proclaiming: "Anton is rising to the stature of athletes such as Michael Johnson or Maurice Green."
     Another Spaniard, Yago Lamela, also earned hefty praise for his silver in the men's long jump. "A silver medal that promises a future gold," read a typical headline in daily ABC.
     Keen to identify a general trend, El Pais wrote that Anton, 36, and Yamela, 22, "at either end of a generation, displayed the new Spanish mentality that was born at the (1992) Barcelona Olympics and now shines in tennis, motor racing, football, cycling and golf."
     



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