Three runners with bay area connections will be on the starting line of the Olympic men's marathon on Aug. 4 at 7:05 a.m.
One is Steve Brace of England, who has been training in the St. Petersburg area in recent months with Olympic veteran Peter Maher of Isla del Sol. Brace tuned up for the Olympic marathon in Ybor City last Friday with a swift 14:44 effort in the Night Lights 5K. However, that only earned him second place to Muchapiwa Mazano's 14:34. Mazano is a former USF middle-distance runner from Zimbabwe.
Former Tampa Bay Downs groom Ronnie Holassie will be Trinidad and Tobago's lone representative in the marathon. Although Holassie's best time of 2:17 compares unfavorably with the 2:08-2:09 of the favorites to win medals, he looks forward to the challenge and the opportunity to represent his native country.
"In my country only medal contenders are funded by the Olympic Federation," Holassie told Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form. "Since I'm unknown in the sport at the world level and, realistically, not a medal contender, all they've supplied me with is a round-trip ticket to Atlanta."
Every nation can enter one athlete in an Olympic event if he/she has made the "B" standard. To enter two or three athletes, all must make the "A" standard. In the men's marathon, the "B" standard is 2:25. The "A" standard is 2:16.
The women's "A" standard is 2:35; the "B" is 2:50.
One goal Holassie entertains is beating his coach, Keith Brantly of Fort Lauderdale, a graduate of Winter Haven High and the University of Florida and the winner of the 1989 Gasparilla Distance Classic.
"It will be kind of strange running against my coach," said Holassie, who is only 24. "We have competed against each other on several occasions over the past few years. I'll feel good if I could just beat him since he's already run 2:14 (actually 2:12:58). My best time is 2:17, which I ran last year."
Brantly, 33, a former member of the Clearwater-based West Florida Y Runners Club, has been training in the mountains around Brevard, N.C., in preparation for the hills of Atlanta.
Brantly has learned a lot about marathon pacing since the 1994 Boston Marathon when he went through 10 miles in 49 minutes and led the field at the halfway point before fading to 20th place.
"Marathoning is a learning experience," said Brantly in an interview from Fort Lauderdale. "I'm looking forward to the Olympic marathon and not just as a participant. I think I can medal.
"I'm not intimidated by Moses Tenui (1996 Boston winner) or any of the Kenyans, for whom I have a lot or respect. Because my credentials in hot weather are good, I'm one of the athletes to beat. I won't do anything flashy at Atlanta. If you do, it will destroy you."
Track & Field News, the self-proclaimed bible of the sport, predicts the top three finishers to be Martin Fiz of Spain, Dionicio Ceron of Mexico, and Luiz dos Santos of Brazil.
Sports agent Luis Felipe Posso of Tampa represents Ceron, dos Santos and 60 other Olympic athletes from 25 countries. The manager of his firm is Derek Froude of Tampa, a 1992 Olympic marathoner representing New Zealand. Froude predicts their client, Manuela Machado of Portugal, will win gold in the women's marathon. She won at the World Championships in Sweden last August.
Neither Tenui, with his 2:09:19 win at Boston, nor third-place Cosmas Ndeti were named to the Kenyan Olympic marathon team.
Elana Meyer of South Africa, who won the women's division of the Gasparilla Distance Classic in 1994, is pegged for 10th place in the women's marathon by Track & Field News. The event will be run on July 28 at 7:05 a.m., and televised live by NBC.
Three-time Boston winner and 1995 Gasparilla dropout Uta Pippig of Germany, who has a personal record of 2:21:45, is relegated to fourth place in the marathon by Track & Field News due to the expected "brutal conditions" at Atlanta and the fact that all her marathon successes have come on cooler days. But so has everyone else's.
Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who won at Gasparilla this year, is predicted to finish fourth in the 10K behind world record holder (29:31) Wang Junxia of China, Fernanda Ribeiro of Portugal, and 1992 Olympic gold medalist Derartu Tulu of Kenya. The 10K final is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 2, at 9:30 p.m.
LOCALLY: Chris Zucker, a St. Petersburg mail carrier, followed the correct route at last Friday's Suncoast Beach Series 6-miler while Peter Maher led the first 13 runners off course. Zucker, 49, was declared the winner after being the first to run the full distance. Jack Gough finished first in the 65-69 age division ahead of Larry Yost and Ray Wunderlich Jr. Amy McClenathan of St. Petersburg took women's honors.
Clearwater's Keith Sawayda and Judy Maguire won the No. 4 Summer Sunset Series 5K at Taylor Park on July 10. They were leading the series, which concluded Wednesday night. The dynamic duo continued their onslaught last Friday at the Sunsets at Pier 60 5K in Clearwater with wins, although Sawayda edged out David Cruz of Seminole by only a second in 16:57.
Kim Bruce of St. Petersburg, winner of the women's division of the Kiwanis Midnight Run on July 4, established a PR of 34:59 at the Great Race 10K in Elkhart, Ind., this spring. Only Canadian Olympic marathoner Danuta Bartoszek beat her.
Canadian Paula Schnurr, who finished second overall in the Run for the Pennant 5K in Dunedin last spring, will run the 1,500-meter event in the Olympics. She beat U.S. Olympian Vicki Huber in the Jerome Classic in Abbotsford, B.C., early last month. Schnurr is a veteran of the Barcelona Games.