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Rival camp too close for Kersee's comfort Heptathlon leader can clinch gold today BARCELONA 92


BARCELONA, Spain -- For the first time in seven years, a rival is close enough after one day of the heptathlon to annoy Jackie Joyner-Kersee on the second day.

But it isn't Sabine Braun's position in the standings that bothers the defending Olympic champion. Joyner-Kersee has become irritated by the closeness of the German's coaches during lulls in the first day of the competition, which lasted 11 hours of a sweltering Barcelona day.

"There is something about Braun and her camp that doesn't rub you the right way," Joyner-Kersee said. "They are playing games, walking right next to me, stepping over me, making you know they are there."

That Joyner-Kersee even brought up the situation showed how much it bothered her. Normally, she does not have a critical word to say about anyone, friend or foe.

"For them to try to intimidate Jackie will cost them an Olympic championship," said Bob Kersee, her husband and coach.

"As far as I'm concerned, Jackie is the matador, and everyone else is the bulls. If they want to charge her, she will hold her red cape in front of their eyes and not flinch."

Braun became bullish on her Olympic title chances after winning the heptathlon in the 1991 world championships. Of course, Joyner-Kersee had to drop out of that competition with a big lead after pulling a hamstring in the final first-day event, the 200 meters.

The trauma of that injury has haunted Joyner-Kersee since, both in practices and at the U.S. Olympic trials, where she slowed down at the same spot that the hamstring gave out last year.

She finally overcame a fear of falling again in the 200 yesterday, running the best time (23.12 seconds) of the 29 women left in the seven-event competition. That gave Joyner-Kersee a four-event total of 4,136 points, well off her world-record pace from the last Olympics but 127 ahead of Braun.

"I never underestimate my competition, but the one thing I have to do is not beat myself," Joyner-Kersee said. "I'm not going to worry about losing, but just do what it takes to win."

Joyner-Kersee beat Braun in both the hurdles (12.85 to 13.25) and the 200 (23.12 to 24.27). Braun had the advantage in the high jump (a personal-best 6 feet, 4 1/4 inches to 6-3 1/4 ) and shot put (46-8 1/4 to 46-4 1/4 ).

Although none of Joyner-Kersee's performances approached her personal bests, the only major disappointment was the shot put, where her best of three attempts was 5 feet short of what she had done four years ago.

"The one event I could mess up and not lose a lot of points is the shot put, but it knocked me off the total score I wanted to get," Joyner-Kersee said.

Joyner-Kersee would not reveal that goal, but her husband said it was 7,000 points. She has not reached that level since scoring the world-record 7,295 in the 1988 Olympics.

"I think she still can get 7,150," Kersee said.

Doing that -- and beating Braun -- likely will depend on today's first event, the long jump, in which Joyner-Kersee's heptathlon personal best is nearly 200 points better than the German's. Braun has an advantage in the final two, the javelin and 800 meters.

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