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AN EXPERT"S VIEW // DWIGHT STONES

Dwight Stones, former world champion high jumper and two-time Olympic bronze medalist and now a network television sports analyst with NBC, shares his thoughts on the impending track and field trials with staff writer Bruce Lowitt.

Without getting hurt, sprinter Michael Johnson is as sure a thing as there is in these trials.

But keep an eye on Darnell Hall in the 400 if he gets a reasonable lane draw and Mike Marsh in the 200. He'd be my pick to upset Johnson.

Dan O'Brien? His own worst enemy. But the decathlete won't make the same mistake as the last Olympics. He won't pass early on anything. He'll do whatever he needs to make sure he's on the team.

About Jackie Joyner-Kersee _ training gets harder as you get older. If she can train at 80 percent and stay healthy, I think she's good enough to beat everyone in the world.

Gwen Torrence could win four four golds, the 100 and 200 and both relays. The precedent is there _ Flo-Jo in Seoul.

I'm not sure how strong we are in the sprints. Maybe if we're not that strong it takes the pressure off, or maybe it puts it on because it's in our own country. One man to watch is Dennis Mitchell. Aside from last summer's world championships, he medaled in the 100 in the two previous worlds and the Olympics, and he's a great relay runner.

Actually, I have a feeling we're going to field a very strong team. We'll stay strong in the events we're supposed to win and do well in the middle distances and distance events and some of the field events.

The problem is, many of the athletes whose names we've become familiar with the past 10 years are all getting old. Carl Lewis is 35 in June; Jackie Joyner-Kersee is 33; Greg Foster is 36. Except for Michael Johnson and a smattering of other athletes, the younger ones haven't done anything particularly outstanding to distinguish themselves.

The reason they're even at the trials and still trying to get into the Olympics is that these Games are at home. The Olympics in the United States is huge; the coverage is so different. And winning or not winning takes on a far greater significance. It's a classic case of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.

All the gold Jackie has, all the gold Carl has will pale in comparison. Of course, Carl won four in Los Angeles in '84, but if you gave him a choice of winning four in L.A. or two in Atlanta after winning seven or eight in between the two, I'd bet he'd pick Atlanta. He wants to go out on a high. Anybody does.

Nothing compares to the trials. It is unique among any competition I've ever been in and I was in five of them.

Take Michael Johnson. He is not going to have to work even half as hard in the second round of the 200 or 400 meters at the Olympics as he's going to have to work to get through the early rounds at the trials.

Once you get to the final, anything can happen. Any one of the eight people, 12 people, whatever, can win it. The final in the Olympic trials is unlike any other race. People do weird things; people panic. People's real emotions and strengths and weaknesses come out in the trials. As I've said before, the body doesn't know it has limits; it's the brain that screws everything up.

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