PAN-AMERICAN GAMES; `Virtually blind' Runyan holds off 1,500 metre rivals

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The Independent Online
THE AMERICAN runner Marla Runyan, who is virtually blind, enjoyed a remarkable win in the women's 1,500 metres at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg after beating off the challenge of Canadian Leah Pells in a photo-finish.

Both finished in 4min 16.86sec and Runyan, a Paralympics veteran making her debut for the United States able-bodied team, said, "This was really big. I can't see the clock so I just try to compete ... my vision is not a problem in a race like this when it's close."

Elsewhere on the track, the Olympic 100m champion, Donovan Bailey, helped his team into tomorrow's 4x100 metres final, despite his controversial start to the tournament.

Bailey was greeted by cheers before and after his race, even though he had upset many Canadians by accepting $200,000 [pounds 126,000] to promote the Games and then pulled out of the 100m because of a dispute with Athletics Canada.

His agent, Ray Flynn, said Bailey had fulfilled all the terms of his contract and was not ready to run the 100m after surgery on his left Achilles tendon 10 months ago. Bailey had Canada level with Cuba at the first exchange, the Canadians going on to victory in 38.74sec.

The United States picked up another 12 gold medals in the Games yesterday, six of them in wrestling, to go further ahead in the medals table, and also beat Cuba in an eagerly-awaited baseball game.

The United States won 10-5 in a match that was meaningless in terms of standings. Four of the five teams in their group qualify for the last eight and Brazil's team of Japanese descendants seems certain to miss out.

The low-key football event suddenly burst into life when Guatemala had four players sent off in their 2-1 defeat by Canada. At the end, police had to protect the referee from the furious Guatemalan players.

Guatemala were reduced to eight men after half an hour after receiving red cards for a variety of offences. But the Canadians were berating themselves for only managing a 2-1 win against a side that had a fourth player sent off in injury time.

"We should have buried them and put four, five, six goals away," the Canada goalscorer, Steve Kindel, said. "For them to get even a shot on goal is unheard of, never mind a goal."

Meanwhile, the Cuba desertion issue refused to die down, with Canadian government sources saying that a third athlete had sought asylum in the country.