sees All Africa Games as build up to Sydney
Johannesburg, 1 April - World indoor 1000 metre record-holder Maria Mutola, who was handed a rare defeat by the Czech Republics Ludmila Formanova in the recent IAAF World Indoor Championships in Maebashi, said here Thursday that the September All Africa Games will be a crucial part of her campaign to win gold at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
"It's the one medal that is missing in my collection," said the 26-year-old Mozambican. "I was relatively new to the sport at Barcelona in 1992 and finished fifth. In Atlanta (1996) I was sick and finished with a bronze, so at Sydney I plan to be at my peak. The All Africa Games, after the IAAF World Championships in Spain, form a crucial part of my build-up to my Olympic gold."
Mutola will be trying for her second world championship gold in Seville, to hang alongside her 1993 gold from the 4th IAAF World Championships in Stuttgart. She took bronze in Athens in 1997 and was disqualified in the semi-final in Gothenburg in 1995. She also won indoor gold on three occasions, in 1993, 1995 and 1997. Mutola was speaking at a press conference where she pledged her support for the All Africa Games, to be held in Johannesburg from September 10 to 19.
"I think it is very important for the African athletes to be there," she said. "And the perception among Africa's top athletes is that they need to support this event on their mother continent."
Mutola said she knew that Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks was "a definite as well," but was less certain whether Africa's top long-distance runners would show.
"I don't know about the others. There has been no confirmation from Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat, but I think they will come too."
Mutola said she believed more should be done to cultivate female runners in Africa.
"My concern, however, is that there are not enough women competing. There must be a huge reservoir of sporting talent among women in South Africa alone, but something must be done in Africa to tap this potential."
Mutola lives in America but has a home north of Johannesburg from where she trains every March and September and during her preparations for major events.
"I love training here," she said. "The weather and the altitude is perfect for my preparations."