SAN JOSE, CALIF., JUNE 27 -- Three years ago, in Los Angeles, the television cameras of the world focused on the victory dances of Carl Lewis (four gold medals), Valerie Brisco (three) and Evelyn Ashford (two).
The TV folks were back today, in more limited numbers, at the 112th USA/Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Lewis, Brisco and Ashford were here, too, but they weren't celebrating.
Lewis suffered a pulled left hamstring as he reached the finish line of the 100 meters. Adding to his pain, he lost by a step to Mark Witherspoon, wrecking his bid for a triple after earlier triumphs in the long jump and 200 meters.
Brisco tied up down the stretch of the 400 meters, after charging to a big early lead, and finished fourth, which means she will be limited to relay duty at the world championships in Rome, Aug. 29-Sept. 6.
Ashford incurred a torn left hamstring in the semifinals of the 100 meters, finished seventh and was fortunate to gain a berth in the world championships at all. Assuming she recovers on schedule, she will run the 200, where she was the third American here, although fifth overall.
Lewis attributed his hamstring collapse to an attempt to compensate for a sore left knee, which he first hurt making a landing in the long jump trials Thursday. The hamstring difficulty surfaced during the 100 semifinals today and the muscle popped as Lewis drove for the tape in a bid to make up for a horrible start.
"I didn't even think I was going to be in there," Lewis said. "I can't believe I made it. It hurt every step. I felt it all the way through. I think it was just from compensation for the knee.
"You can't run all these races like this. Look at all the people who got hurt. It hurts me to see Evelyn Ashford pull. She's such a great athlete. You just can't run a hundred after running 200s like that."
Until this year, the semifinals and final of the 100 were run the next-to-last day of the meet and the semifinals and final of the 200 on the final day. This time the order was reversed.
The change was effected at The Athletics Congress convention in December and the obvious reason would seem to be that the TV people wanted to showcase the 100 for their live telecast today. If that was the case, nobody was admitting it.
Larry Ellis, chairman of the TAC Men's Track and Field Committee that must approve the schedule, said, "TV is not involved in setting up the schedule. They did ask us to hold some things back a few minutes today for air time, which we did.
"I don't recall any reason for the change in the schedule. I do know it was approved in December and everybody had time to complain if they didn't like it. I can't buy the argument that the 200 tires you out for the 100, not when it comes 24 hours later."
Ashford was bitter, however, saying, "I don't think they thought about the sprinters when they made up the schedule. It's very hard to run the 200 and then come back and run the 100. It's really hard on the legs.
"But they don't care about the athletes. What can we do about it? Nothing."
Ashford said the hamstring had been a problem throughout the meet, although the tear did not occur until she accelerated in a bid to finish in the final four in her semifinal.
"This has not been a good year for me," Ashford said. "I had a virus and infections all winter. I got over those and then they came back. Because of that, my training base is not good."
Brisco blamed relaxed trial heats for today's 400 misfortune, when she covered the first 200 in 22.5 and ran out of gas while Lillie Leatherwood-King, Diane Dixon and Denean Howard raced past toward Rome.
"When I heard 22.5, I said, 'Whoa daddy, let's relax,' " Brisco said. "I tried to hold on, but they were coming at me. That's the worst race I've run since I started running the quarter. I'm used to busting it and I should have done it in the earlier rounds. I lost my rhythm."