When Joan Benoit won the women's Olympic marathon trial in 1984, only 17 days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and later went on to take the gold in Los Angeles in the inaugural Olympic women's marathon it was labeled a miracle.
This year, with the women's Olympic marathon trial in Pittsburgh just four weeks away, Benoit now Joan Samuelson says she apparently may have run out of miracles."It would take almost an even bigger miracle than it took in '84," Samuelson said last week. "And I just don't think it's there."
Samuelson, who has not raced seriously for more than two years, has been attempting to come back since the birth of her first child last October, daughter Abigail Webb Samuelson. She has been plagued by nagging physical problems which have cost her two months of training.
It is unlikely she can be ready for the May 1 race.
"If things all of a sudden go wow in the next two weeks, I'd consider running the trial, but I don't think they will," she said.
She is not likely to pull off the same kind of feat this Olympic year as she did during the last. For one thing, Samuelson was in peak condition in 1984 just before she injured her knee, a fitness level that enabled her to recover quickly from arthroscopic surgery and win the trial.
Now, since late January, she has been suffering debilitating back pain, which only recently eased enough for her to begin running again.
The back trouble has been compounded by a longtime mechanical imbalance caused by her shorter right leg, broken in a skiing accident when she was a sophomore in high school. For years, her left leg has had to compensate, and this past year the weakness in that leg has been worse.
"With only four weeks left, I'm just running out of time," she said. "I need another month. My longest run has only been 13 miles, and it's still not right."
She sighed. "There are other things in life, you know," she said.
She has not totally abandoned the idea of competing in Seoul, however. The 1988 Games will have a women's 10,000-meter event for the first time in history, and she is considering running the track and field trials in July in Indianapolis. "It's a possibility," she said.
However, she acknowledged, "I don't think I have a shot at medaling in the 10, although I have a shot at making the team. My best chances ... of medaling are in the marathon."
She continues to be fueled by her one remaining dream to be the first woman to break 2 hours, 20 minutes in the marathon. She clocked her best (2:21:21) in October 1985 in Chicago, the last time she ran a marathon.
The world record (2:21:06) is owned by Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen, set in the 1985 London Marathon.