Despite the fact that Korea is nearly 7,000 frequent flier miles away from the Wasatch Mountains, Utah is well represented in the Games of the XXIVth Olympiad that began in the South Korean capital here Saturday.
Indeed, for a state with less than two million people, Utah is way above what would be considered a proportionate quota of representation in the biggest sporting event in the world - one that this year has attracted nearly 10,000 athletes representing a record 159 nations.A total of nine Olympians currently reside in the state of Utah, while at least three more have in the past lived for considerable lengths of time in the state.
The nine current "Utahns," in alphabetical order, include:
- Troy Dalbey, swimmer, BYU student from San Jose, Calif.
- Ed Eyestone, distance runner (marathon), from Provo.
- Madonna Harris, cyclist, who lives in Park City and will compete for her native New Zealand.
- Melissa Marlowe, gymnast, from Salt Lake City.
_ Henry Marsh, runner (steeplechase), from Bountiful _ Doug Padilla, distance runner (5,000 meters), from Provo.
_ Denise Parker, archer, from South Jordan.
_ Binesh Prasad, distance runner (marathon and 10,000 meters), who lives in Salt Lake City and will compete for his native Fiji.
_ Karl Tilleman, basketball player, BYU law student from Canada.
The three who have lived in Utah in the past include U.S. water polo team members Jeff and Peter Campbell and Greco-Roman wrestler Mark Fuller. Fuller, an Oregonian, once spent three years in Provo as an assistant wrestling coach at BYU. The Campbell brothers were born in Salt Lake City and learned the basics of swimming there before moving to Irvine, Calif.
In addition, another water polo team member, James Bergeson, has adopted Utah ties. His wife is from Salt Lake City and several members of his family live in Salt Lake.
From this list of athletes, several can be considered legitimate medal contenders, if not outright favorites. The U.S. water polo team, still steaming from losing the gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles to Yugoslavia on a tie-breaker, could grant the Campbell's (and Bergeson) gold medals, while Fuller, a two-time Olympian, could medal in the 48-kilogram class.
Dalbey, after dramatic improvement in his times in the freestyle sprints at the U. S. Trials, is a darkhorse bet to medal and upstage his famous teammate, Matt Biondi; and Harris, who is completing a rare double by competing in both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games in one year (she was a cross-country skiing contestant in Calgary last February), cannot be overlooked in the women's cycling road race after finishing second in the prestigious Coors Classic last month in Colorado.
Certainly the sentimental favorite is Marsh, the 34-year-old steeplechaser competing in his third Olympics (the others were 1976 and 1984). In the '84 Games, Marsh was the favorite to win the gold medal and then was weakened by a virus, and finished fourth. He isn't the favorite this time, nor is he predicted by many experts to win a medal by placing in the top three, but he does have a vaunted kick, to keep things interesting _ and at last report he was virus-free.
Parker, just 14 years old, is nonetheless the top American archer, and while she isn't predicted to win a medal over more experienced rivals from the Soviet Union and Korea, there has been nothing in her career to date to suggest that she isn't capable of rising to the occasion, and often beyond it.
Marlowe, Eyestone and Padilla all have their work cut out for them, as far as medals are concerned. But none is a prohibitive underdog, either. Marlowe, whose graceful style would be perfect for TV, could turn into another darling of the bars and beams with some early good routines; while Eyestone, with just three serious marathons to his credit at this stage of his career, could emerge as the best in that event; and Padilla, the European Grand Prix track and field champion two years ago, chould shake of his recent slump and lay claim as the world's best at 3.1 miles.
Tilleman's Canadian basketball team isn't given a lot of chance for a medal, but could surprise. Only Prasad is a certainty not to medal, and yet, as Fiji's top runner, he is expected to set new national records in both the 10,000 meters and the marathon.