American Johnny Gray knows that when he steps to the line for the start of an 800-meter race, his presence does not intimidate his opponents like it once did. Maybe it should.
Tonight at the University of Manitoba, the 39-year-old Gray won his second Pan American Games gold medal in the 800 meters. Gray's time of 1 minute 45.38 seconds not only improved his winning time of 1987 (1:46.79, in Indianapolis), it set a Pan Am Games record (previously held by Brazilian Jose Luis Barbosa, 1:46.02).
Gray is the oldest American runner at the 1999 Pan Am Games, a four-time Olympian who has battled leg injuries throughout the year. He said his opponents often call him "Mr. Gray" and tell him how they watched him compete at the 1984 Olympics when they were children.
Gray led for most of the race, but then had to hold off a late charge from 27-year old Cuban Santana Tellez (1:45.40) and lean forward at the line to win.
Gray, who says he plans on attempting to qualify for his fifth Olympics--which would be a first for a U.S. track athlete--also tied American hurdler Roger Kingdom for the Pan Am Games track record for the longest interval between gold medals. Kingdom won the 110-meter high hurdles in 1983 and 1995.
Baltimore's Bernard Williams won the men's 100 meters in a time of 10.08 seconds.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Cuba's delegation to the Pan American Games said its athletes are being encouraged to defect through the Canadian media.
Already, a Cuban athlete and a journalist have defected, and Jose Ramon Fernandez, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, said "our delegation is very upset about publications inciting Cuban athletes to desert."
Pistol shooter Abel Juncosa Reyes asked for asylum before the Games. Sources said Lisette Cepero of Radio Rebelde also has sought asylum.
At the track, Silver Spring's Meredith Rainey Valmon couldn't defend her 800-meter title, opening the way for Surinam to win its first track gold in the competition. Valmon, a two-time Olympian, faded to third and was beaten by Letitia Vriesde, who was timed in 1 minute 59.95 seconds.
In other women's events, Mexico's Ana Guevera took the 400; Erika Olivera became the first Chilean marathoner to win a Pan Am medal with a games record 2:37:41; Mexico's Adriana Fernandez won her second straight 5,000 meters title; Argentina's Alejandra Garcia took the games' first pole vault for women; and Osleidys Menendez of Cuba won the javelin at 216 feet, also a Pan Am record.
In the men's marathon, Darrell General of Mitchellville, Md., finished fifth in 2:23:58. Brazil's Vanderlei Lima won in 2:17:20. Meanwhile, Bernard Williams ended the 12-year U.S. drought in the men's 100.
U.S. men's track coach Ralph Lindeman, 48, was admitted to Victoria Hospital with chest pains.
WOMEN'S SOCCER: The United States tied Mexico, 1-1. Second-half substitute Marcia Wallis scored the United States' goal in the 53rd minute.
FIELD HOCKEY: Bethesda's Steve Jennings scored in the 49th minute to help the U.S. men's team to a 1-1 draw with Chile.