Sports

Olympic hopeful Wallace Spearmon hopes to make the most of a second chance

ARLINGTON -- Wallace Spearmon is tasting his breakfast for the second time this morning. Having just finished another 350-meter sprint, he is leaning over a fence at the new Oakridge School track, trying to calm his stomach.

He already politely asked Oakridge track coach Chris Marcellus, who is watching the workout, where Marcellus would prefer Spearmon lose his breakfast.

This practice is known -- not so affectionately -- as "butt-lock Monday."

"Mondays are a slow march and sad signing," coach Monte Stratton said.

Spearmon, a 200-meter specialist, became the eighth Olympic hopeful to join forces with Stratton, TCU's former track coach. Spearmon arrived in Arlington in October from College Station, where he had been training under Texas A&M assistant coach Alleyne Francique.

He made the change, he said, because of better medical care in DFW for his left Achilles' tendon, which he injured last year. So here he is, working out with good friend Doc Patton, who has remained with Stratton since finishing at TCU.

"It starts from my hips. My hips are weak and off balance, and then the way my foot strikes, the tension builds up to my Achilles,'" Spearmon said. "They're trying to change everything from form to mechanics.

"I still think I have some good years left running, so I might as well go ahead and get this thing going right, so I can keep running for a little bit. Doc's 34, and I'm 27, so I figure I have a few years left."

Spearmon is hoping his time is now. He has the top time in the world in the 200 this year, having run a 19.95 at UT Arlington on March 24. It was the earliest anyone ever has broken 20 seconds outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, according to USA Track & Field.

It was the 22nd time Spearmon has gone under 20 seconds, with his personal best a 19.65 he ran in 2006. Defending Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt also has 22 sub-20 clockings, while Michael Johnson had 23 and Frankie Fredericks a record 24.

But running fast now -- or in the past -- means little to the former University of Arkansas star, who is slated to run at the Kansas Relays this weekend.

Spearmon wants to run fast when it matters most. He did just that four years ago only to be denied an Olympic medal.

Spearmon finished third in the 200 meters in Beijing behind Jamaica's Bolt and Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles. But as Spearmon was taking his victory lap, the scoreboard showed Spearmon had been disqualified. Only Spearmon didn't know until Bolt's agent told Spearmon he had been DQ'd for stepping out of his lane.

"I thought maybe they made a mistake, or maybe something happened, and I'll go protest," Spearmon said. "I went in the back and sat down, and they showed me a picture. In the picture, you really couldn't tell. They came back and showed me video.

"I'm not a cheater. I accepted it. I wasn't too happy, but I accepted it. Of course, if I cheated, that's what's supposed to happen."

While watching the video, U.S. officials pointed out that Martina had stepped out of his lane. Martina also was disqualified. Americans Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix ended up with the silver and bronze, respectively.

Spearmon said he took months to get over it.

Though he is a four-time World Championships medalist, Spearmon doesn't have an Olympic medal. He gets another chance this year.

"With the caveat of remaining uninjured, which is my main concern, he can be as good as anyone in the world," Stratton said. "I know everyone says, 'You mean even Bolt?' And yes, even Bolt. He is legitimately a medalist, and of course, we want the top medal. We're competing and preparing so as to be ready to compete for the gold.

"He has not reached his potential."

With Tyson Gay expected to run only the 100 this year, Spearmon will be among the favorites in the 200 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, beginning June 22 in Eugene, Ore. American Harry Adams has run the second-fastest time in the world this year at 20.10. The top three finishers advance to London, where Spearmon would have to upset Bolt to win the gold.

"He wants it badly," Patton said. "He dreamed of being an Olympic medalist, not a World Championship medalist. To have it taken away in that manner, after taking a victory lap celebrating, I definitely know he wants to get back to that stage and prove he's worthy of an Olympic medal."

Spearmon has given his blood, sweat, tears and many a breakfast for this, a second chance to make a gold impression.

Charean Williams

817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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