Sergey Bubka hoisted an umbrella above his head, pondering an attempt at a world pole vault record and wondering if it could actually get any hotter in Atlanta.
It was only mid-May, yet the mercury already had climbed to a record 92 degrees - and 112 degrees on the track during the opening of the new Olympic Stadium."The biggest problem was the heat, of course," Bubka would say later, having failed to break his own record or stay cool during Saturday's Atlanta Grand Prix track and field meet. "I can't imagine it being worse for the Olympics."
Guess again, Sergey.
Ninety-degree temperatures will be the norm when the Olympics open in late July. The humidity will be even worse. Bubka and the other athletes will need more than an umbrella to stay cool when they return to Atlanta to go for the gold.
"With heat like this, it's very, very difficult to run well," said Algerian star Noureddine Morceli, winner of the mile. "That is why I came to this meet, to test the weather."
For some athletes, the scorching temperature was not a problem.
"This is my first time ever in Atlanta - I love it," Johnny Gray said after winning the 800 meters. "I love the weather. Being tall and lanky, it takes me a while to get warmed up, but not here with this humidity."
"The weather is like my home," added Cuba's Ana Quirot, who continued her amazing comeback from a near-fatal burning three years ago by winning the women's 800.
The blistering weather didn't seem to slow down the competitors. Though no world records were set, a number of events produced the fastest times in the world this year, including Michael Johnson's 19.83 seconds in the 200, Butch Reynolds' 44.33 in the 400, Gwen Torrence's 10.85 in the 100 and Morceli's 3:50.86 in the mile.
"It's probably the fastest track in the world because it's so hard," hurdler Allen Johnson said.
The biggest star of the day, though, was someone who didn't even win. Carl Lewis finished second to Dennis Mitchell in the 100, but Lewis' wind-aided time of 9.94 was his first sub-10-second clocking since the 1991 World Championships.