17 Current and Former Tigers to Begin Quest for Olympic Gold
BATON ROUGE — The 2004 Olympic Games will be a reunion of sorts for the LSU track and field team as 17 Tiger athletes, past and present, will descend on Athens, Greece, for the next two weeks in pursuit of the sport’s ultimate goal, Olympic gold.
“I think it’s a real tribute to the program and the athletes themselves that we are able to have so many representatives at the Olympics Games,” said LSU head track and field coach Dennis Shaver. “These athletes truly believe in themselves and their abilities and it is an honor for them to be able to represent their native countries.”
Athletes with LSU ties will represent a total of eight different countries, including the United States, which boosts a lineup of five Tigers and Lady Tigers in senior Bennie Brazell, junior Kelly Willie, and former Tiger greats Muna Lee, John Moffitt, Walter Davis and Derrick Brew.
Brazell, who is also a member of the Tigers’ national champion football team, will miss fall practice to participate in the 400-meter hurdles in Athens. Brazell, a two-time NCAA runner-up in the hurdles, finished third in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials. His personal record time of 48.05 in the finals ranks as the sixth fastest in the world this season.
Brazell will also be included in the United States’ 4×400-meter relay pool.
Joining Brazell in that pool of athletes will be junior Kelly Willie. Willie was the 2004 NCAA runner-up in the 400 meters and earned a spot in the relay pool after finishing seventh in the event at the Olympic Trials.
Former Tigers Walter Davis and John Moffitt enter the Games as serious medal threats in the horizontal jumps. Davis will compete in both the long and triple jumps and Moffitt will take his shot in the long jump.
Athens will mark Davis’ second straight Olympic appearance as he finished 11th in the triple jump in Sydney four years ago. Davis enters the competition with the world’s fourth-best mark in the triple jump (57-10 ?) and 10th-best distance in the long jump (27-0 ?).
Moffitt, who owns the world’s sixth-best long jump mark this year (27-2 ?), is coming off a third-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials and a sweep the 2004 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles.
Brew will represent the U.S. in the 400 meters and the 4×400-meter relay, while Lee run in the 200 meters and is listed among possible candidates for a spot on the 4×100-relay team.
For Brew, who owns the ninth fastest 400-meter time in the world this season (44.69), success in international competition is nothing new as he ran on the United States’ 4×400 teams that won World Championship gold in both 2001 and 2003.
Lee, LSU’s lone representative on the U.S. women’s team, advanced to Athens after a sensational second-place finish in the 200 meters at the Olympic Trials; a performance that saw her clock the world’s fifth fastest time in the event this season (22.36).
Lee, the most decorated athlete in LSU track and field history with seven NCAA titles and 20-All-America honors to her name, enters the Games with plenty of experience in the 4×100 relay, having led LSU to three NCAA titles in the event in her four seasons in Baton Rouge.
Another former Tiger with medal hopes will be quartermiler Alleyne Francique. Competing for his native county of Grenada, Francique enters the meet with the second-fastest time in the world this season (44.47). The 2004 World Indoor champion in the 400 meters, Francique has been picked by Sports Illustrated to win gold in the event.
Also competing for Grenada will be Hazelann Regis. The 2003 Grenada and Central American and Caribbean champion in the 400 meters, Regis will participate in both the open quarter and the 4×400-meter relay.
Former teammate Nadia Davy will also be pulling double duty in the 400 and 4×400 relay at the Olympic Games while competing for her native country of Jamaica. Debbie Parris (400-meter hurdles), Ronetta Smith (4×400 relay) and Claston Bernard (decathlon) will join Davy on the Jamaican squad.
Former Lady Tigers Marian Burnett and Valma Bass, as well as Tiger Billy Bohlke will also be in action on the track. Burnett will represent Guyana in the 800 meters, Bass will run in the 200 meters for St. Kitts and Nevis, and Bohlke will compete in the 5,000 meters for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the field, LSU will be represented by LeJuan Simon and Laverne Eve.
Simon, who just completed his eligibility with the Tigers in June, will compete in both the long and the triple jumps for Trinidad, while Eve will be making her third Olympic appearance in the women’s javelin for the Bahamas.
The Games of the XXVIII Olympiad will officially get underway tomorrow with the opening ceremonies. The track and field portion of the competition will run August 18-29.