- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

The beginning of the Olympic track and field competition remains a few days away, starting with the first contests in the men’s and women’s shot put on Wednesday.

Until Friday, when the U.S. team joined a couple of hundred other nations in the Games’ opening ceremony, the squad trained on the island of Crete, just south of Athens.

The U.S. team also used the training center concept for the 2000 Sydney Games, where squad members prepared in Brisbane, Australia.

During their stay on Crete, several of the athletes spoke to reporters at press conferences and had some interesting things to say.

Here are some of the highlights:

Two-time Olympic trials champion and U.S. record holder in javelin Breaux Greer, a 27-year-old from Athens, Ga., on his baseball and rock star career:

Q: Did you play pitcher in high school?

A: I was pitching, catching. I could throw 98 [mph]. That’s one reason I never got really stressed out, because I felt like I could always go back and play baseball. I don’t know if I really can, but in my head that’s what I think.

Q: Tell us about your rock band.

A: It’s called “Ifelter red letter.” It’s a play off “The Scarlet Letter.” It’s crappy music. We got together in 2001. The strength coach at Georgia [Rob McIntyre] is a drummer. I was like, man, you want to play sometime?

He was really good, and I had to practice. Another thrower, John Newell, came to Georgia to train, and he played bass and lead guitar. I’m on rhythm guitar and vocals.

World indoor and outdoor long jump champion Dwight Phillips, a 26-year-old from Tempe, Ariz., on breaking both his legs below the knee at 14:

“When I was a kid, I was fooling around, playing football in the middle of my street with some of my friends. I can’t recollect how it went, but a motorcycle hit me. It happened to be one of my brother’s good friends [driving the motorcycle]. I didn’t realize what happened. I got up, and it was like my legs were just twisted. … It took a year and half, two years to recover.”

Q: What does a big jump feel like?

A: It actually feels like the movie “The Matrix,” where he’s performing the moves in slow motion. That’s how I feel — like I’m moving in slow motion. It takes forever to land.

Clyde Hart, coach of Olympic trials and NCAA 400-meter champion Jeremy Wariner, on his star athlete from Baylor, where world record holder Michael Johnson trained:

Q: Is he another Michael Johnson?

A: I wouldn’t touch that. They are totally two different people. I had Michael for 15 years. I’ve had him for two years. At the moment, let’s let him run against other people and not be in the shadow of Michael.

Defending Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila, a 33-year-old from Phoenix, giving advice to pole vault legend Sergey Bubka:

Q: Sergey Bubka has said a woman will never jump 5 meters. What do you think?

A: He better bite his tongue because he’s going to see it soon.

American marathon record holder Deena Kastor, a 31-year-old from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on preparing for the Athens heat:

Q: What are you doing to prepare for the Olympic race?

A: Right now the thing I’m focusing on is getting a constant stream of food in me and sleeping a lot.

Ice baths, eating a lot and sleeping a lot. … We work so hard on trying to do everything right. Hydration, recovery — training in the mountains, it’s much drier than here, so we trained in a lot of clothes to get used to the heat and humidity.

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