- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

A revival of the Battle of the Sexes will take place in Los Angeles this morning with a bonus of $50,000 at stake.

The 19th annual Los Angeles Marathon has pitted its elite men’s field against its elite women’s field. The first person — male or female — to the finish line will take home the bonus, plus $25,000 in cash for winning and a new car.

The women will get a head start of 20:30. I’ve done the numbers, and in this horse race, I am picking a female to win. I think the organizers are giving the women too much of an advantage.

Here’s the rational: The No.1 woman, 49-year-old Ukrainian Tatyana Pozdnyakova, has run as fast as 2:29:00 in the past two years. She won L.A. in 2:30.26 two years ago and 2:29:40 last year.

The men’s field is headlined by thirtysomething Stephen Ndungu of Kenya, who won consecutive titles in 2001 and 2002 but was second in L.A. last year in 2:09:54. That time is his best in the past four years.

This is nearly a 19-minute gap favoring Pozdnyakova. Now obviously, other top competitors in the field could throw a wrench into the calculations.

The ultimate winner will be the marathon’s organizing group, which discovered another way to add excitement to what many non-runners would consider a boring sport.

Cinderella goes to Worlds — Jen Toomey continues on her dream season. After recovering from a near spill near the start of her 800-meter heat at the World Indoor Track & Field Championships two days ago in Budapest, Toomey showed the poise of a world-class runner during yesterday’s semifinals to gain a trip to the finals.

She controlled her semifinal by leading through a slow first 400 in 64.22 before the world’s greatest two-lapper, Maria de Lurdes Mutola, overtook her for the win. Toomey was a close second in 2:03.40.

Even though she ran a personal best 1:59.75 last year at Prefontaine, Toomey will be hard pressed to medal today, because two women in the first heat broke two minutes and Mutola ran a swift 1:57.72 in the quarterfinals.

A big fat Greek fiasco? — Rome may not have been built in a day, as the folklore goes, but Athens hasn’t been built in years. And that’s a major concern for the International Olympic Committee some 160 days before the opening ceremonies.

In what is being dubbed “My Big Fat Greek Olympics,” the construction schedule for the venues has been fat with delays. Some of the major problems: The stadium and swimming pool have no roof, the housing facilities are unfinished and the marathon route is still not all paved.

Blame it on work stoppages, anti-Olympic protests and politics. But frankly, since when does track and field need a roof over its venue? If it rains, runners get wet. If it is blazing hot, runners get sunburned. It is as easy as that.

And go ahead and leave the streets unpaved for the marathon. Alan Culpepper, winner of last month’s Olympic trials, won’t be complaining. Remember he was the one who said after his 2:09 debut marathon that he trained too much on the softer trails and that running 26.2 miles on the hard, paved streets of Chicago beat him up pretty good.

Jump for joy — Yamile Aldama put up a brilliant fight just to get to this weekend’s World Indoor Championships and in the process Sudan earned its first Worlds medal.

All Aldama wanted to do was to compete in the Worlds and the Olympics. But the Cuban-born triple jumper, who has lived and trained in London for more than two years, could not become a British citizen until November.

After missing last year’s indoor and outdoor world championships and facing the fact that she would have to sit out the 2004 Olympics, Aldama, 31, accepted citizenship from Sudan in January. And yesterday, she nailed the silver medal with a jump of 14.90, behind the world record performance of 15.36 by Russian Tatyana Bleeder.

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