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Edwards finds bright spot in one-year ban

18 July 2007

Torri Edwards Torri Edwards
By Dave Ungrady

On the last day of the U.S. outdoor track and field championships last month, 100-meter champion Torri Edwards entered the 200 final with a chance to record a rare sprint championship double. Marion Jones won both races at the U.S. outdoor meet three times, the last time in 2002. Gwen Torrance did it twice, in 1995 and 1992. Edwards had already won both titles in 2003 and had hoped to ride the momentum of her 100 victory two days earlier.

But Edwards struggled to stay focused on the 200 meters final. She finished third in 22.55, 0.27 seconds slower than her personal best.

"I was so excited," the soft-spoken Edwards said by phone Tuesday from Greece, where she is preparing to run the 200 meters at an IAAF Area Permit meeting Wednesday. "It had a lot to do with the fact I ran the 100 and won a national title. That night I went out and ate dinner with some friends and enjoyed it a little bit. I tried to get to bed at a decent hour to get some rest but didn't get much sleep. It was kind of hard to celebrate that and turn around and get back into the competition."

Edwards had good reason to feel the way she did. The win stamped her return as one of the top female sprinters in the world. And Edwards has gathered profound momentum since the national championships. She has won all three races she has entered at IAAF meets in Europe, including Golden League events in Rome and France. She hopes to continue her winning ways in two more meets before competing in both sprints at the world championships in last August.

"This year in Europe has been a whole new experience for me," she said. "I've never dominated as I have this year. I expected to do well this year, but I didn't know I'd dominate as much as I have. "

Edwards' triple European triumph in the 100 meters began July 6 at the Gaz de France Golden League meet with an 11.17 effort. She won July 10th at the Athletissima Super Grand Prix in 11.00 and July 13 at the Golden Gala Golden League in 11.17.

She plans to run another 200-meter race, at the Super Grand Prix in London on Aug. 3, before taking a break for the world championships. Her schedule after the worlds has not been completed.

Edwards skipped the first Golden League meet of the season and is not eligible to win the overall $1 million jackpot awarded to the winners of their events at all six meets. Her main quests this year are world titles and an unbeaten European season.

Three years ago, another world title seemed a distant dream to Edwards. During the 2004 Olympic trials, it was revealed that Edwards tested positive for nikethamide, a banned stimulant, from a sugar pill she consumed at a meet earlier in the year. She received a one-year suspension and missed the entire 2005 season.

Edwards trained throughout the ban, talking through the tough times with her coach, John Smith. Edwards called that period the most difficult experience in her track career, but relishes the lessons she learned.

"I grew from the situation," she said. "It taught me a lot about the system. I never paid attention until that situation. I had to look at the rules. At the time it didn't seem like any good would come out of it, but now, looking back and how far I've come, it makes times like this even sweeter."

Edwards was back on track by 2006, finishing third at the U.S. outdoor championships in the 100 meters and winning one meet in Europe. In late May, she ran a personal best in the 100 (10.90). She has lost just once in that race this year.

Edwards feels she must focus most of her work in the 200 meters. "In the 200, it's a matter of getting the rhythm down," she said. "In the 200, you can't overrun the turn. You have to have enough left coming down the home stretch. You're running against girls with a quarter mile strength base. For me, it's a matter of holding it over the last 50 meters. I know I can come off the turn first. It's a matter of once I get off the turn to hold it to the finish."

Edwards, 30, is contemplating completing her competitive career after the 2009 world championships.

"I'm going after the Olympics as if it was my last one," she said.

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