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Colander looks to make name for herself

8/16/2004

GEORGIOUPOLI, Greece -- With all the talk of Gail Devers and Marion Jones, America's 100-meter champion at the U.S. trials is
being overlooked.

LaTasha Colander, a transformed quarter-miler, might be the best
bet for the United States to hang on to the gold in one of the
Olympics' marquee events.

Her coach, Trevor Graham, helped Jones win the Olympic 100 and
200 four years ago in Sydney. He said that until Colander wins the
big one in Athens, she's just another sprinter.

"She's running well in the 100 meters,'' Graham said after
working out his Olympic sprint corps Sunday night. "But she has
never won a title or anything, so to me right now, she's nobody
until she can step up and do the things Marion and Gail did.''

A two-time U.S. champion and Olympian in the 400 meters,
Colander shifted to the 100 just last year.

"This was just what I wanted to add to my résumé,'' she said.
"Sometimes you have many gifts and at different times you want to
be able to use them.''

Graham, who except for a brief break has coached Colander since
1999, said the 100 has always been her natural distance, and her
performances this year seems to prove him right.

She won the 100 at the trials in Sacramento, Calif., with a
personal-best 10.97 seconds -- tied for fourth-fastest in the world
this year. Her trials triumph came in a burst of speed halfway
through the race.

"The best part of my race in the 100 meters is the last 50,''
she said. "I can just turn it over incredibly the last 50
meters.''

A week later, Colander upset her coach when she failed to show
up for the finals in the trials' 200, even though she was a
favorite to make the Olympic team in that event. Graham told
reporters that she had faked an injury, and had quit on him.

The two have since mended their problems.

Colander still maintains she had a sore Achilles, and wanted to
make sure it didn't get any worse in the 200.

"That's not something you want to play with going into the
games,'' she said, "and I wasn't going to play with it.''

The Olympic trials, Colander said, are "an emotional time when
everything's flying around. But me and my coach, we're still
working excellent together.''

Graham, who also coaches Olympic sprinters Shawn Crawford and
Justin Gatlin, also brushed aside the incident.

"That's behind us now,'' he said. "Right now I've just got to
make sure she gets on the podium. We've still got a few more days
to make sure she does her best when she gets there.''

Colander was a hurdler in college, then switched to the 400 and
earned a gold medal running the anchor leg of the 1,600-meter relay
at the Sydney Olympics after failing to make it to the finals in
the 400.

This year, she is expected to anchor the 400-meter relay as well
as run in the 100.

The change of events has brought with it a change in the 5
feet-5½-inch Colander's body.

"In college, I weighed 98 pounds,'' she said. "When I ran the
400, I was 115 pounds. Now running the 100 meters, I've built my
mass to where I'm 130 pounds.''

Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria has the top time at 10.77, but it was
run in her country and she has not approached that level anywhere
else. Christine Arron of France has run 10.95. American Lauryn
Williams, third at the trials, has gone 10.97.

"The race,'' Colander said, "is open to anyone.''