Paris final may rekindle passion
Comment by Mike Hurst

THERE has been an enormous amount of nonsense spoken and written this year about Cathy Freeman chasing another world title in Paris in August.

Contrary to popular belief, she is not going to win the world championship and that choice was made at least a year ago.

Her decision to miss so much specific training last year predetermined her limits this year.

What an athlete puts out on the track depends on the conditioning they put in. If you take two years off serious training, as the Olympic 400m champion has done, it will take two years to get back to where she was. In her case that was the best in the world.

She is not too old to succeed again, but the body is driven by the mind and, as I wrote two years ago when she talked of this comeback, as a fiercely goal-driven athlete where can Cathy go on the track that she hasn’t been before?

Desire is the furnace that stokes the athlete’s engine. And as she sat on the track after her Olympic victory on September 25, 2000, it was clear her fire had cooled to an ember.

Cathy started to regroup in late 2001 and had she pushed through to the Commonwealth Games last year, she could have won the individual 400m title. The gold medal in Manchester was won in a slow 51.63sec - just 0.03sec faster than Cathy ran to win the Australian title in March this year.

But she backed off training and stayed in Melbourne to stand by her husband, Alexander Bodecker, as he fought throat cancer. She made the right choice then.

Here’s hoping she makes the right choice now and runs in Paris.

Despite her relatively disappointing time of 51.70sec for a distracted run in Eugene three weeks ago, her race agent, Maurie Plant, is convinced she was actually physically ready to clock 50.90sec. Plant was with her when she raced 300m three weeks earlier in Mexico City.

His ability to judge athletic form is uncanny and I would not doubt him in Cathy’s case.

Two years ago 50.71sec was the slowest time to qualify for the last world championships final in Edmonton.

Plant’s assessment suggests Freeman is physically only a stride and a half short of reaching the Paris final to be run at 10pm on August 27.

She might finish last in the final, but that’s still top eight in the world.

And if she manages to come that far this year, even Ana Guevara, Mexico’s current world No.1, will be looking anxiously over her shoulder as the Big Show comes around to Athens next year.