Eleven meet records were broken during the 93rd U.S. Track and Field Championships that ended here Sunday night. Into the scrap heap with one of them went the shackles that have bound Sydney Maree since he left South Africa four years ago to attend Villanova.
A year ago, Maree was restricted to collegiate competition in the United States, because the International Amateur Athletics Federation prohibits open competition involving South Africans. However, last winter Maree married an American, Lisa Rhoden, and applied for American citizenship, so the IAAF ruled that he could compete internationally.
The final step in Maree's march to equality was achieved Sunday night, when he fought off Steve Scott in the stretch of a dramatic 1,500-meter final, setting a meet record of 3:35.02 and earning a berth on the U.S. team for the World Cup in Rome, Sept. 4-6.
The Athletics Congress International Committee had met earlier Sunday to discuss its options should Maree win and chairman Richard Hollander said, "Sydney Maree is eligible for World Cup competition. We have that assurance in writing from (IAAF President) Adriaan Paulen. IAAF Rule 12-8 allows an athlete to represent a country when he is acquiring citizenship by the procedure legally recognized in that country."
"It feels as if I have a home," Maree said. "I'm glad my feet were able to do the talking. I had to show the world that this was a vital opportunity that I so much needed.
"This was my first win over Scott, but I haven't raced Steve many times because of politics. This was one of my few opportunities to race against the best. Whatever comes up now is their (the IAAF's) problem. They have kept me out for four years. I have suffered enough."
Scott, although disappointed at missing the chance to compete in the World Cup, added to Maree's happiness by joining the track world's newest American in a hand-in-hand victory lap.
"Maree should definitely go to the World Cup; he deserves it," Scott said. "As far as I'm concerned, he is an American."
Maree cannot compete in the U.S.-Russia meet because the agreement with the Soviets states that only citizens are eligible. However, Hollander said Maree could compete as soon as he acquires U.S. citizenship.
The Soviets are expected to challenge Maree's nomination to the World Cup. U.S. officials indicated they would support Maree fully in any confrontation, but backed off when asked about the possibility of a boycott in the event of an IAAF reversal. That organization is noted for its bending in the political wind.
There was challenge to the participation here of South African Mariette Van Heerden, who placed third in the women's discus and fourth in the shot. She was approved, however, when she produced a Zimbabwe passport.