Also-Rans at the Olympics Relish the Experience Anyway
Feb. 11, 1992
ALBERTVILLE, France (AP) _ Alphonse Gomis of Senegal threw himself down the slope and crashed after the gold medal for downhill skiing already had been decided.
He never finished the course this weekend, but he's proud that the likes of gold-medal winner Patrick Ortlieb ''consider that I am one of them.''
Some borderline competitors continue to have a good time at the Olympics even when they have no prayer of winning - or even coming close.
Britain's Eddie ''The Eagle'' Edwards epitomized that spirit during the Games in Calgary four years ago, but he couldn't get a place on the team this year.
And the same thing may happen in the future to other don't-have-a-prayer competitors.
Under prodding by Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, competitors with no chance of winning are slowly being weeded out of competition and are expected to be reduced to tourists by 1996.
''Really weak athletes should not be able to take part anymore,'' said Jacques Rogge, chairman of the Association of European National Olympic Committees. ''We have to choose between quality and participating.''
Until now, any nation can bring one competitor to the Games, regardless of ability.
Because of the size of the Summer Games, the IOC wants to keep the number of participants under control at Barcelona, Spain, this summer.
''We should avoid the situation that a country brought in someone who literally wore spikes for the first time,'' Rogge said.
In past Summer Games, some competitors have lagged by five laps in the 10,000, Rogge said. ''They just weren't athletes,'' he said.
But for now, the Walter Mitty Olympians are having fun.
Gomis, teammate Lamine Gueye and Anne Abernathy, the Virgin Islands Olympian with her palm-tree emblazoned luge, are members of the Mitty club.
Gueye finished 44th, more than 22 seconds behind Ortlieb.
Gomis, however, had already met his Olympic goal during training. He won a bet that he could come down ''La Face de Bellavarde'' within 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Ortlieb won the gold in 20 seconds less.
Abernathy already has had some initiation in the luge. She sometimes comes over to Europe to practice. But after the Games, she plans to cut down on luge and go for racquetball - not an Olympic sport.
The IOC does not want to kick these well-meaning folks out of the Olympics, but it does want to keep them out of the real events.
The competitors would be allowed into the opening and closing ceremonies but would be reduced to spectators during competition.
''Call it an initiation,'' Rogge said.