Chasing that elusive gold medal

PARIS (AFP) – Gail Devers has defied a life-threatening disease and the ravages of time to pursue the one title that has eluded her in five Olympics. At 37, the American’s desire for an Olympic 100 meters hurdles gold medal is undimmed. She has won two Olympic golds in the 100 meters during the same period, but the hurdles title has stubbornly eluded her. In 1988, she failed to make it through the heats. In 1992, she led the final until hitting the final hurdle and eventually came fifth, handing victory to Greece’s Voula Patoulidou. In 1996, she finished fourth. Four years ago in Sydney, she aggravated a hamstring pull in the semifinal and failed to finish. After winning her specialty event at the US trials last month, Devers played down the importance of the one title missing from her collection. «I’m very happy that I’ve made my fifth Olympics,» she said. «It’s not about winning that elusive medal. It’s about going and having fun.» The world discovered the remarkable story of Devers’s life when she burst onto the international scene at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. She was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a debilitating thyroid condition, in 1990. Having been told the condition could develop into cancer and lead to a foot being amputated, Devers underwent radiation therapy and suffered severe side effects. Her feet bled profusely and she had constant hamstring tears but, showing the persistence which has characterized her career, Devers never gave up. In Barcelona, she got her reward with gold in the 100m, sporting the distinctive long, painted nails that she still has. In Atlanta, she became only the second woman to retain the 100m title. However, Devers cannot hold back time forever, and she faces a formidable challenge in Athens from Canada’s Perdita Felicien, the 23-year-old student who snatched the world title in Paris last year after Devers crashed out in the semifinals. Felicien denied Devers at this year’s World Indoor Championships in Budapest, beating her by three-hundredths of a second over the 60m hurdles. Devers says she welcomes the challenge.

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