Colander looks to make name for herself

Updated: August 16, 2004, 8:59 AM ET
Associated Press

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.''


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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