February 2, 2006

Crawford hopes foot problems are behind him

By Gene Cherry

DURHAM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Despite suffering from
foot injuries that would make most men weep, Olympic 200 metres
champion Shawn Crawford somehow finds a way to explode from the
blocks and deliver high-quality sprint training times.

Six months after painful bunions forced him to miss the
world championships 200 meters in Helsinki and left him in so
much agony that he failed to make the 100 metros final, the
28-year-old Crawford is cranking up to compete again.

His opening act will come indoors, against a strong 60
metros field at New York's Millrose Games on Friday.

The race itself will be a moment of self-examination for
the talkative, hard-driving sprinter, who won gold and silver
medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 200 and the 4x100
relay respectively after narrowly missing out on a bronze in
the 100.

In less than seven seconds, Crawford will discover if the
wide-ranging variety of medical advice and experimentation he
has pursued since August have soothed his injured feet to the
point where he can challenge for the top again.

"If you can come back right where you left off or better,
then you are on your way back," the 2004 world indoor 60 meters
silver medallist told Reuters in an interview at the North
Carolina Central University track where he trains.

"I'm not going to say I'm back yet, because you don't
really know that you are back until you test everything out in

However, his explosive sprints into the gusty winds that
plagued his training session earlier this week and the absence
of excruciating pain in his feet bring hope.

"They bother me a little bit," Crawford said.

"But it's nothing compared to what it was. It's almost as
if I never had the foot problems."


The feeling is so different from last June, when Crawford
finished second in the 100 meters at the U.S. championships and
took third in the 200 meters a day later.

Instead of elation for making the American world
championship team in two events, there was a realization that
his season was in real jeopardy.

"Both of my feet were injured and my right one was really
swollen," Crawford said.

Because of problems with the bunion on his right foot,
Crawford had shifted the pressure he normally applied to his
big toe to his second toe as he ran in the early part of last

The nerves and ligaments of that second toe became inflamed
and irritated because of the additional pressure.

"I could walk, but I was basically hobbling around,"
Crawford said.

He compounded the problem by trying to shift as much weight
as possible to his left foot and soon both feet were irritated
and hurting.

"I was having pain like I had never had before," said.
Crawford, who first realized he suffered from bunions as a
teenager while playing American football in high school.

After withdrawing from the world championships 200 meters,
his bid in the shorter sprint ended in disappointment with a
last-place finish in his semi-final.

Training partner Justin Gatlin, meanwhile, grabbed gold in
both events, leading a historic first-four sweep by the
Americans in the 200 meters.

"It wasn't hard at all for me to watch," Crawford said when
asked how disappointing it was not be a part of the success.

"My fate had already been determined."

Now he hopes 2006 will provide an opportunity to make a
fresh start.

"I still have the bunions but my start is a whole lot
better," he said.

"Coach (Trevor Graham) says I look better than he has ever
seen me, so maybe last year was a blessing for me to get my
head together.

"I want to get out and run some of the fastest times that
have ever been run in track and field. I want to break world

"Gold medals are cool, but I value world records better."