Olympic seasons usually see the late emergence of most international athletes, but several of America’s established names broke with tradition this past weekend to highlight the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto on Friday and Saturday (26/27 March 2004).
Greene in confident mood
Although having been shorn of his 100 metres World Record eighteen months ago, Maurice Greene is still a draw wherever he goes. Saturday, he was preceded by HSI teammates Kaaron Conwright, Leonard Scott and Ato Boldon as the quartet sped to an early-season 39.37 clocking in the 4x100 metres relay.
Greene was back to his former self - clowning and engaging in a bit of self-promotion - as he beckoned the media to come to him, instead of the other way around. It had the flavour of a book-signing event . . . but without the books.
Beyond the smiles and laughs today, however, Greene’s early appearance - plus his heavy schedule in the coming weeks -seem to indicate a seriousness of purpose this year, in defending his Olympic title in Athens in August and in regaining his World record.
Greene & Co. will reappear as a relay unit next week at the Texas Relays, and then later in April at the Mt SAC Relays, where Greene will also run the 100 metres.
Bell's 17.48m signals Olympic aspirations
Unlike Greene, triple jumper Kenta Bell has no Olympic title to defend, but his aspirations this season are just as high. After last weekend’s season-opening 17.49 in San Diego, the 27-year-old Texas native leaped 17.48 on Saturday - one of four seventeen-metre attempts - to prove that even self-coached athletes can have success.
“It’s just me and my video camera out at training each day,” said Bell. “But if you ask if I was satisfied with my overall performance today? No,” he quickly added.
“Based on my training this winter - even without a coach - I expected more coming into today. I love the consistency of two weekends near the 17.50 level, but each week I want to build on what I had the week before. Still, I feel that everything is going the right way this year,” said the Paris sixth-placer, hoping that an Athens medal is part of his season fortunes.
4.57m collegiate outdoor record
At least one new name made herself better known today. Pole vaulter Chelsea Johnson, a member of the university team at UCLA, jumped her second US collegiate outdoor record of the month in her 4.57 win. Although only fifth on the all-time US pole vaulting list, the 20-year-old Johnson’s rapid ascent is noteworthy because her career stretches back only two seasons, as soccer occupied most of her sporting life until her final high school year.
Asked about whether she thinks she might be peaking too early, especially in an Olympic year, Johnson replied, “At first, I thought this might be the case. But then I realised I had been working hard during the winter and was figuring out lots of things with my coach (Anthony Curran). I have no doubts that I’ll keep going higher now.”
Johnson can also point to solid critiquing on her visits home, as father Jan was a bronze medallist in the event in the Munich Olympics.
An Olympic gold medallist was even closer to Johnson’s efforts today, as Atlanta team gymnastics champion Amy Chow was helping with crossbar replacements for the meeting organisation. The 25-year-old Chow, a pre-med student at Stanford, has herself recently shown a bit of interest in the event, jumping 3.70 in her single indoor appearance before Friday’s outdoor 3.60.
The blustery morning conditions on Saturday which eventually abated and paved the way to Johnson’s success also extended to the men’s event, as US-born Giovanni Lenaro of Mexico leaped a PB 5.60 in his win.
Also significant was the 7.92 PB of Milton Little in the men’s Long Jump, which very likely had the intrinsic value of an eight-metre effort given the 2.5mps headwind against which Little had to struggle.
For full results of the Stanford Invitational, click here