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September 27, 2000

Pells the latest casualty

Globe and Mail Update

Sydney — The theme song for Canada's Olympic track team must surely be 'Another One Bites the Dust.'

Wednesday's first casualty, Leah Pells, was competing in her qualifying round of the women's 1,500 metres but pulled out of the race a little more than a few strides from the starting line. Pells, 25, from Vancouver, hobbled to the infield grass, sat down and began crying.

Later, Canadian team officials helped her to the Stadium Australia medical area where she was then dispatched to a clinic. Assistant track coach Wynn Gmitroski said Pells had been bothered by a sore foot and was worried before the race began.

"The last thing she said was, ‘It's really sore. Have some ice ready,'" said Gmitroski. "She's had a sore foot. She ran the 800 on the Gold Coast (in training) and things were all right. A couple of days later, her foot was extremely sore. We suspected a stress fracture. She got an MRI and it was negative."

Pells had a remarkable race four years ago at the Atlanta Olympics, finishing fourth. She was hoping to at least match that performance but her foot problems, likely from wear and tear, proved too much of a hindrance.

"I saw her take one stride," said Gmitroski. "She was at the back of the pack. She had a slow start, and then she was out."

The bad karma continued when Carol Montgomery, the Vancouver 10,000-metres runner, pulled out of her qualifying run because of back problems. Montgomery was nursing a sore back before she helped open the Sydney Games by competing in the women's triathlon on Day 1.

Montgomery was considered a potential medal threat in triathlon but was taken out of the race when she and two other competitors were involved in a bike crash. Montgomery hit her head on the pavement and twisted her back but thought she could get enough rest to run in the 10,000.

Montgomery was hoping to become the first Canadian women to compete in two events at the same Olympics. She has previously represented Canada in track at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., and also ran at the world cross-country championships in 1995 and 1996.

Pells and Montgomery were the latest in a growing list of Canadian athletes who have struggled here to compete let alone finish their races. Former Olympic champion Donovan Bailey pulled up mid-way through his 100-meters race. He had been bothered by the 'flu. Bruny Surin, picked by many to win a medal in the 100, pulled up after feeling the effects of a sore hamstring.

Without Bailey and Surin, there is little hope the Canadian relay team will be able to defend its gold medal win in Atlanta.

Then it was Katie Anderson who had to be assisted off the track after tearing her hamstring in the second round of the women's 100-metres hurdles.



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