10 AUG 2000 General News

Alejandro Cardenas…going for the "other" Olympic gold

Alejandro Cardenas…going for the "other" Olympic gold
Nick Davies in Zurich

Four years ago, Britain's Roger Black was criticised after he won the Olympic silver medal at 400m. Why? Because he said that the medal was like gold to him, because Michael Johnson was from another planet …

Yesterday, Mexico's Alejandro Cardenas, bronze medallist in Seville last year, showed that little has really changed in the one lap sprint. "For me there are two gold medals available in Sydney. One is for Superman - and that is already spoken for - and the other one for the rest of us mortals."

Alejandro hails from a country more famous for producing race walkers than sprinters, but thanks to his Polish coach Andrzej Piotrowski, the 25 year-old has made the grade. At the World Championships in Seville last year, Alejandro improved his personal best from 44.92 to 44.37 in the course of the rounds. More impressively, Alejandro is not even that experienced at 400m. Originally he was a decathlete. He won a medal at the Pan American Games in 1995 and set a Mexican record of 7614 points in 1996. But then coach Piotrowski convinced him he would be better to drop nine of the decathlon events and focus on the remaining one …

Piotrowski's suggestion paid off, but then as the former coach to Irina Szewinska, the first woman to break 50 seconds, he did know a little bit about what it takes to be good at the event.

Alejandro was born in Hermosilla, a town close to the border with the State of Arizona. The former law student, who plans to continue this career when he stops running, is now based in Mexico City, where the thin air makes his gruelling training sessions even harder.

But as well as a capacity for hard work, the Mexican has proved a consistent racer. In his six races so far this year he has won three and finished second in three. But there is always Michael Johnson … "What I admire most about him is that he has maintained such a high level in this event for so long. It is now 10 years he has been around and he is still running sub-44 seconds. That is why he is so special," says Alejandro.

But for that "other" medal, the Mexican has as much chance as anyone else. Yet his meteoric rise to fame has also had one curious side-effect: "I can't tell you how many times I have been dope tested in recent months. It is incredible!" But since no news on that front is good news, Alejandro is now all set to chase Superman in Sydney …