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Cubans try to repeat gold domination

Cubans try to repeat gold domination
Gene Cherry (Reuters)

23 July 1999 – Winnipeg - A powerful Cuban team led by world record holder Javier Sotomayor and world champions Ivan Pedroso and Yoelbi Quesada hopes to continue its Pan American Games mastery beginning here on Saturday.

While U.S. superstars Maurice Greene, Michael Johnson and Marion Jones will be in Europe competing on the lucrative grand prix circuit, the Cubans will have their best at these hemispheric games.

High jumper Sotomayor and fellow Cubans Pedroso and Quesada, the world long and triple jump champions, will be in Winnipeg to defend their Pan American titles. World-class hurdler Anier Garcia and 800-meter runner Norberto Tellez also will seek gold for the Cubans.

U.S. men's coach Ralph Lindeman is not conceding the gold-medals race, though.

"I like to feel this is the best (U.S.) Pan American Games team since 1987," he said. "I would be thrilled with 10 golds, and I think we can get 10 golds."

Cuba's men and women each claimed nine golds at the last games, at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1995. The United States went home with five men's gold and nine for the women with Brazil earning four men's championships and one women's title.

As inspiration, Lindeman has frequently reminded his charges that no U.S. male has won Pan American Games gold "in the 100, 200, 400, 4x1 relay and 4x4 relay since 1987."

A trio of national champions - decathlete Chris Huffins, hammer thrower Lance Deal and discus thrower Anthony Williams - lead the U.S. squad. The United States also should do well in the 100 meters with Tim Harden the chief threat, the 400-meter hurdles, the pole vault and the relays.

Brazil, with Claudenei da Silva and Andre da Silva in the sprints and marathoners Vanderlei de Lima and Eder Fialho, also expects a strong showing. The Brazilians will also introduce newly crowned South American women's long jump record holder Maurren Maggie, who leaped 7.26 meters (23 feet, 10 inches) last month for the best performance in the world this year.

Angela Williams, who could be the next great U.S. female sprinter, will challenge the Bahamas' Chandra Sturrup and former Cuban Liliana Allen over 100 meters with a number of islands sprinters in the mix for the women's 200 meters.

Allen, winner of the past two women's 200 meters and a double medallist in the women's 100, will be wearing a different coloured vest this time, though. She now competes for Mexico.

The men's 100-meter final, traditionally a spotlight event, lost much of its glamour last month when world record holder Greene, Trinidadian training mate Ato Boldon and Canadian champion Bruny Surin decided to skip the competition.

Donovan Bailey, whom organisers paid almost $200,000 to promote the games, will be here, but the Canadian, who lost his 100 meters world record to Greene last month, will compete only in the 4x100-meter relay.