COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Olga Appell isn't out of the Olympic marathon just yet.

Only a week after dropping out of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials because of an injury, the top qualifier might still try for a spot at the Atlanta Games.

Appell's agent, Bob Wood, told race organizer Russ Pate on Thursday that the runner's fractured right foot is not as serious as first thought.

Pate said Wood told him Appell would train with an orthopedic brace and be monitored daily after running.

If Appell, of Albuquerque, N.M., were to come back, it would be a day or two before the Feb. 10 race, Pate said.

``She's an exceptional athlete and certainly one of the favorites to make the Olympic team,'' Pate said. ``We will be thrilled if her condition allows her to compete.''

Appell discovered the fractured small bone in her foot after a training run Jan. 21. She had it looked at and then she and Brian Appell, her husband and coach, chose to withdraw.

Messages to a representative of Appell, Tom Sturak in Albuquerque, N.M., were not immediately returned Thursday.

Appell had said she would rest the injury and then try for the U.S. Olympic team at 10,000 meters in June's track and field trials.

The reversal came as a big boost for Pate.

``She hasn't said she was running, but just the possibility is an exciting one,'' Pate said. ``I don't know of another story exactly like this one.''

Appell had a time of 2:29:16 to lead the elite field of 54 runners. She had generally been considered the race favorite, along with Anne Marie Lauck.

Despite winning the 1994 Los Angeles Marathon and finishing second in New York that fall, Appell has struggled in recent long-distance races. She stopped after 20 miles at the U.S. Championships last February, held over the same Columbia layout as the Olympic Trials.

In New York last November, Appell withdrew after mile 13.

Pate, however, said she had been focusing on winning one of the first three competitively awarded spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Appell and her husband moved to Columbia just after the first of the year to pinpoint her training.

But a misstep on the training run triggered enough pain to send Appell to a doctor.

Appell took up running in 1987 to lose weight after the birth of her daughter Monique. She is a Mexican native who became a U.S. citizen in February 1994.

Pate said if Appell did not feel completely comfortable running, she would not risk more serious damage to her foot and her career.

``I'm sure that's a major consideration for her, for her agent and for her physician,'' Pate said. ``We know a lot more about how to manage injuries. Medical science has come a long way, but I don't know how you can precisely know that.''