Start in Lane 1 could have cost Stevens a medal, Braxton says


Morgan State track and field coach Leonard Braxton waited patiently for his first glimpse of "Silky Slim," so nicknamed because of her smooth running style and trim body.

Former Morgan star Rochelle Stevens suddenly appeared on the TV screen, but Braxton's pleasure was tempered by the announcement that she was in Lane 1 for the Olympic 400-meter run yesterday in Barcelona, Spain. She was the only American in the final.

"Oh, no," groaned Braxton, watching in his apartment near Morgan. "She doesn't like Lane 1, never has. A runner can talk herself out of the race because of the lane."

The most desired lanes are the middle ones. Assignments are based on semifinal results, with the outside lanes going to the slowest runners.

"From Lane 1, with the staggered start, everyone is in front of you," Braxton said. "Of course, everyone is equal, but the perception from Lane 1 is that you're behind, and the turns are tighter."

Stevens was still in the hunt for the bronze medal as the runners entered the stretch, but she faded and finished sixth in a race won by France's Marie-Jose Perec in 48.83 seconds. Stevens' time of 50.11 was only .05 shy of her personal best.

"She started to pick up the pace at the 250 mark, and I thought she had a good shot at third," Braxton said. "But she was dying faster than the other girls.

"The desire was there, but the leg speed wasn't. I know being in Lane 1 had an impact. Enough to keep her from a medal? I don't know."

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