John Brewer's Olympic plans sound fairly ambitious. "The gold medal is not a question," he says. "The question is just setting a world record."
No doubt, Brewer will be the clear favorite to win his class of the marathon in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics in Seoul this month. Having set a world record with a 2:06 marathon time in Winnipeg in June, he's still looking to become the first Class I racer to break two hours - and he'd like to do that in Seoul.Brewer will also compete in three track races - the 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meters. He'd rather just concentrate on the marathon, but U.S. Disabled Sports Team officials told him they could not afford to send strictly a road racer to the Games, so Brewer qualified again during the wheelchair track nationals.
He figures to win a medal in each of the track races, but winning a gold will be difficult because of Brewer's troubles in becoming used to his new, three-wheel track chair and the emergence of Colorado Springs' Jeff Worthington. Brewer met Worthington only last year, and now Worthington has become a world-class racer by using the backhand pushing technique that Brewer popularized.
"That's made the difference for him," Brewer noted. "Couldn't he have waited one more year?"
Actually, Brewer enjoys the rivalry with Worthington, similar to the friendly competition he's had for years with his close friend, Sweden's Jan-Owe Mattson. With a little extra track work prior to the Games, Brewer should be a threat to Worthington. As for the marathon, Brewer has continued in the last year to prove himself as just about unbeatable in Class 1, for more severely handicapped athletes.
He's certainly come a long way from the day in 1976 when he had to convince Deseret News Marathon officials to let him on the course, and he finished in about six hours.
Using a new chair, he won the Detroit Free Press Marathon last October, knocking several minutes off his time. He went on to win in Boston, Los Angeles (the Para Olympic trials) and Pittsburgh, last spring, all the while holding back a little to ease his recovery from the races. More recently, he set a course record in the Deseret News-KSL Radio 10K.
He'll turn everything loose in Seoul, which will signal a change in Brewer's career. He'll back off his busy schedule of about one major national race a month and travel only to big-money races, taking less time away from Midvale Middle School, where he teaches art.
That's the plan, anyway. At age 38, Brewer is not quite ready to ease into athletic retirement. "Barcelona would be nice," he says, thinking of the 1992 Olympics. A couple of hours on the road in Seoul may help him make up his mind.