In her childhood dreams, Park City's Madonna Harris pictured herself crossing the finish line at the Olympics.
Although not exactly according to the original script, she has met that goal - in a rather round-about way. In her dreams she went to the Games as a distance runner. In real life she's going as a bicyclist, representing her native New Zealand."When I got into my 20s and realized I was not good enough to make it as a runner I thought it was the end of the dream," says Harris. "But cycling revived the whole thing. It's nice to get a second chance."
Harris began her athletic career in the United States on a basketball scholarship to Utah State. But after two seasons, the sometimes five or six hours of daily practice dampened her enthusiasm. She dropped off the team. She moved to Park City in 1981 to get more involved in snow skiing, a sport she discovered in Logan.
For Harris it has been a non-stop run of sports. After track (high school) and basketball, came skiing (alpine and cross country), soccer and then triathlon competition. A running injury in 1985 forced her to end triathlon training and concentrate on cycling. It was only a short time before she became one of the better cyclists in the U.S.
Last summer she won the Age Graded national championship in the criterium and road race at Park City. She finished 17th in the world road race championships in Austria.
This year has been a matter of slowly building momentum. With the Summer Games not starting until September, Harris didn't want to peak too early. After competing last winter in a 20 kilometer cross-country skating race for New Zealand in the Winter Games, she struggled with bronchitis for several weeks. As a result, she only finished ninth in the prestigious SeaFirst Crown, her first major race of the year. Last year she won the stage-race portion of the event.
Later in the summer, she attended the Tour de France with members of the New Zealand national team, only to be sidelined. Through a bureaucratic mess, her home country pulled the entire team, so Harris watched from the sidelines.
Since then, things are back on track. Harris has been on a rigorous training schedule for the Games. Last week she finished second in the Coors Classic race in Colorado. Through a strange mixup - she isn't sure how it happened - she missed her starting time by 36 seconds. As a result, after the first day she was in 45th place. She ended the series of races in second place, just one minute behind Inger Thompson, a U.S. Olympian.
Her next stop is Seoul, where she will be the lone female New Zealand racer. She will compete in the 65-mile road race.
"It's a one-day race and I feel I have as good a chance as anybody, except for the disability of having no teammates," she said. "It's nice to accomplish a childhood dream."