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Pushing human limits in athletics

Jeff Flock

By Jeff Flock
CNN Chicago Bureau Chief

January 3, 2000
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

CHICAGO (CNN) -- It's been 16 years since I set out to become an Olympic champion.

I was 25 and had attained my dream: to be a network television news correspondent. It was at a fledgling 24-hour operation called Cable News Network, but no matter.

The only other thing I ever wanted was to run. In high school, I won 27 straight meets and was a state champion. I still hold a record at my high school. I ran at Boston University, too, but gave it up for the school paper and NPR.

I never stopped running altogether, though. By 1983, the voice inside my head that said I was missing something was getting louder. The Olympics were coming to Los Angeles, and I wanted in.

I quit CNN that December, hooked up with a prestigious track club and a former U.S. Olympic team coach, and started training again, running the 100-mile weeks, doing the weight training and speed work. I ran the mile faster than I ever had. It still left me short of qualifying.

How life comes full circle: My assignment for CNN's millennium coverage was to investigate the limits of human athletic achievement. I've been there all right.

Last month I visited the place I hadn't been good enough to get to as an athlete: the United States Olympic Committee's training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were thrilled to have me as a journalist.

I interviewed my boyhood idol, Jim Ryun, a former world-record holder in the mile. There I was in Topeka, Kansas, with the now-congressman, talking race strategy and looking at his old race films.

more musings

How fast? How high? How far? I've talked to coaches, athletes and scientists about what the limits are. Some of the experts say we've already gone about as far as we can in most events. Others say genetic engineering will one day create super-athletes who will smash existing barriers.

Who knows what the limits of athletic achievement will be in the new millennium? The only limits I can be sure of are my own.

CNN Interactive: Analysis

CNN Interactive: Health

United States Olympic Committee -- Training Center Overview
   • Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs
International Olympic Committee
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
U.S. Representative Jim Ryun

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