- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

Khalid Khannouchi is one of the most gifted athletes in the world. After all, he wins big marathons with world-record times.

And yet Khannouchi is one of the most cursed people in the world.

The 31-year-old Moroccan-turned-American is in Limerick, Ireland, right now and not because he loves training in the green countryside more than around his Ossining, N.Y., home. It’s because Gerard Hartmann is in Limerick, and when you need one of the world’s top physical therapists as Khannouchi does, you get on a plane and see him.

Khannouchi cited a “nagging injury” when he withdrew last week from the Chicago Marathon, a race he has owned since he burst on the scene with his first marathon in 1997. Efforts to reach him for further explanation were unsuccessful.

Khannouchi rightfully is protecting himself for the one moment in his life when he finally can feel validated for moving to the United States in 1992. He left Morocco because officials refused to help him pay for training expenses.

It was nice to set the world record twice, but Khannouchi, more than anything else, would like to earn a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. That goal eluded him in 2000 even though he became a U.S. citizen in May of that year.

“If I ran the Chicago Marathon, I might risk my chances to participate in the Olympic trials as well as losing my hope to make the Olympic Team,” Khannouchi told Chicago race officials last week. He learned a lot from 2000.

With every thrilling victory (Chicago in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and London 2002), every world record, every major endorsement in the United States, there is disappointment for Khannouchi. Injuries and despair nearly ended his running career in 1994. Khannouchi was on top of the world when he smashed the world record at Chicago in 1999 and appeared to be a shoo-in for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and a gold medal.

But he got nicked up in London on April16, 2000, and withdrew from the U.S. trials in Pittsburgh three weeks later with ligament damage in his left ankle and a strained right hamstring. This after he won an 11th-hour fight to gain his citizenship in time to be a member of the U.S. Olympic team.

Back spasms distracted Khannouchi heading into the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton. However, in that race it was blistered feet that stopped the 5-foot-5, 125-pound marathoning giant at the midway mark.

Now his focus is on two days next year: Feb.7 and Aug.29. Those are the dates of the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Birmingham, Ala., and the Olympic marathon in Athens. With some luck of the Irish and some intense training, Khannounchi can bring the United States its first Olympic marathon gold since Frank Shorter in 1972. Now that would be validation.

Ramsey can throw —While Redskins fans watch second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey, track fans can share in some of the excitement. USA Track & Field brought to my attention the fact that Ramsey won the bronze medal at the 1998 Pan American Junior Championships in Havana.

The event? Javelin of course.

Earlier, in 1997, Ramsey won the silver medal at the USA Outdoor Junior Track & Field Championships and finished the year as the No.1 ranked javelin thrower in the nation. The 24-year-old Tulane graduate holds the Ruston (La.) High School javelin record with a throw of 231 feet, 2 inches, which would have placed him sixth in the USA Outdoor Championships in June, behind a winning throw of 249-10.

Holy Moses — The most dominant track athlete ever made many track fans happy once again when he announced last week that he is training to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team.

Yes, long hurdler Edwin Moses might be back at 48. His record 122 consecutive victories over nearly 10 years is legendary and, to me, on par with Cal Ripken’s consecutive games record. His talk of returning to competition — hopefully, unlike his 1999 attempt that never panned out — has sparked heated discussion about his ability to compete in such a rigorous event as the 400-meter hurdles.

Ken Stone, a master’s historian, noted that according to the Age-Graded Tables of the World Masters Association in use in recent years, the Olympic “A” standard of 49.20 seconds at age 48 would be equivalent to running 42 seconds as an open athlete. Impossible, Stone concludes. The current world record is 46.78.

Moses once again parted the hurdling seas, with one faction thinking he is delirious and the other faction believing in miracles.

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