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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sprinter Mitchell Proves Point

ST. PETERSBURG -- There is nothing confusing about the selection process for the marquee events in the Goodwill Games' track and field competition.


If you have a proven name, like Carl Lewis, Linford Christie or Leroy Burrell, you receive an invitation wrapped in the currency of your choice. If all you have done was win a bronze medal in the Olympics and a couple of more in the World Championships, like Dennis Mitchell, you must earn your plane fare, room and board and perhaps a few rubles for spending money.


Mitchell earned his entry, winning the 100 meters in last month's U.S. championships. Then he revealed his bad will for the Goodwill Games, renouncing his right to his lane as well as all of those rewards.


"I was insulted,'" he said.


But when Britain's Christie, the reigning Olympic and world champion, injured a hamstring last week and withdrew, the Goodwill Games' talent procurers, desperate for another world-class sprinter for one of their main events, called Mitchell and offered him a sweet deal to reconsider. Suddenly, he was no longer insulted that he had been forced to prove himself.


He did, however, believe that he had a larger point to prove. It was evident in his eyes -- which he used to stare down the finish line in a pre-race warm-up that entertained the Petrovsky Stadium crowd of about 15,000 almost as much as the race itself -- that he intended to do it here Monday.


Mission accomplished. His time of 10.07 seconds, respectable considering the stiff wind of 1.9 meters per second in his face, did not approach the world 100-meter record of 9.85 set two weeks ago by Burrell. But all that mattered was that it was better than the second-place Burrell's 10.11 and the third-place Jon Drummond's 10.12, and it allowed Mitchell, in all modesty, to respond positively to a question at the post-race news conference about whether he is the world's best sprinter.


"I want to live up to the tradition of a cocky sprinter and say I am," said Mitchell.


Lewis, running only his second 100 of the summer, was never a factor, finishing fourth in 10.23.


"I'm not sure how I would respond going back to back like that against world record-holders," Lewis said.


It was not a stirring afternoon for living legends.


Pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, who holds the world record for setting track and field world records, was irritated by a swirling wind and cleared only one height, 5.70 meters (18 feet, 8 inches), as he finished third. Russians Igor Trandenkov and Maxim Tarasov were 1-2 at 5.90 meters and 5.80 meters respectively.


In the day's closest race, Russia's Yekaterina Podkopeva, 42, ran the 1,500 meters in 4:04.92 to edge Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, 25, who finished in 4:04.97.


But the award for perseverance belongs to Gwen Torrence. After beating Russia's Irina Privalova in the 100 on Sunday, Torrence was confident of completing the double in Monday's 200. But, for some unexplained reason, she did not hear the starter's instructions, never got into her set position and allowed Privalova a sizable head start.


But she fought back valiantly to win in a fast 22.09. Privalova was second in 22.33.


While Torrence was on the victory stand to receive her gold medal, Mitchell interrupted his pre-race act long enough to salute her.


That was the only time his attention was diverted from the task at hand. Before Mitchell went to celebrate his victory, the sprinter wanted everyone to know that he had another reason for winning besides proving that he could. He said he had dedicated his race to the refugees from Rwanda.