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Perez hoping for Athens nod

Citizen Staff

The former PCC track star and Tucson native will not know if she is on the Olympic team until the roster is announced Aug. 9.



Yuliana Perez is making the most of the waiting game.

The Tucson native, who won U.S. Track and Field women’s outdoors triple jump national championships while a student at Pima Community College in 2002 and 2003, will have to sweat out the next three weeks to see if she has secured a spot on the 2004 U.S. Athens Olympic team.

And although she has asked for help from her former coach Fred Harvey, the University of Arizona head coach, she plans to stay in her Fayetteville, Ark., home.

“I will not be going anywhere before the Olympic Games. That is not my style,” Perez said in a telephone interview. “Coming to Tucson or changing coaches three weeks before the Olympic Games is the not the right thing to do. I will be in Arkansas for the next year. I believe 2005 will be a great year for me.”

Perez, who was born in Tucson but spent most of her life in Havana, Cuba, has qualified for a berth on the team despite finishing a disappointing sixth at the U.S. Olympic trials.

But she is one of only two Americans who have achieved the Olympic A-standard of 46 feet, 7.25 inches, the mandatory distance needed to compete in Athens next month. She only jumped 44-2.5 at the trials.

Tiombe Hurd won at the trials with personal record, trials record and American women’s outdoor record of 47-5.

“That was her time to be the best that she could be,” Perez said. “The next time it could be me. I am ready to go. I am healthy.”

Perez, who moved to Fayetteville last winter to train at the University of Arkansas under legendary jumps coach Dick Booth, jumped 46-8.25 in winning the U.S. women’s outdoors title last year. That jump qualified her for the U.S. team. But only Hurd officially has a spot on the team.

The final roster for the U.S. track and field team will not be announced until Aug. 9, thus the waiting game for Perez. If at least two of the jumpers who finished ahead of her at the trials achieve the A-standard before Aug. 9, she will be bumped from the team.

Shakeema Walker finished second at the trials with a personal record of 46-1.50 and Vanitta Kinard was third with a personal record of 45-0. Both jumpers in interviews immediately following the competition said they are confident they can achieve the A-standard before the Aug. 9 deadline.

Perez considers that a long shot.

“I have a better chance of going than the other two girls,” Perez said. “For them to go, they will have to get personal records, and I do not think that is going to happen.”

Perez, who spent the 2003 fall semester at UA before withdrawing and moving to Arkansas, was slowed at the trials by a nagging right hamstring injury that occurred in practice in April. She advanced to the finals at the trials with a jump of 44-9, an embarrassing distance for an athlete who has 10 legal jumps of beyond 46 feet.

“The biggest thing now is getting her confidence back up,” Harvey said. “She was really disappointed in her performance level. She feels she let herself down.”

Harvey is unsure of what role he will play, if any, in Perez’s final weeks of training.

“A lot of that is unclear right now,” he said. “The ball is definitely now in her court. I will do whatever is necessary to help her.”

PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press

Yuliana Perez is one of two Americans who have met the minimum distance needed to compete in Athens.

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