Hail Janet - Just In Case Kate or Kate Step Up
Jun 29, 2008
Craig Lord

At the Olympics in Seoul, a 17-year-old called Janet Evans weighed in at 102lbs and caused a sensation with her windmilling arms. Two of her in one suit might have matched her GDR rivals on the scales but Evans was worth her weight in gold - three times: 400m, 800m freestyle and 400m medley. The world record she set in the 400m would last until 2006, the 800m world record she set in 1989, of 8:16.22 stands firm to this day as the longest-standing global mark.

Last year, Evan's 1,500m mark finally fell to Kate Ziegler, who is, understandably, tipped to take the legend's last monument down this summer. Katie Hoff could get there too, perhaps.

Evans retained the 800m crown in 1996 and took silver in the 400m behind former East German Dagmar Hase, who emerged from the race to dedicate her crown to ex-GDR teammate Astrid Strauss. Why? Well, in support of a woman who had qualified for the Games in Barcelona for reunified Germany but tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and was served with a suspension. Shame is an alien concept for some.

Evans retired in 1996, and spent the past 12 years doing motivational speaking. In 2003 she married and 18 months ago gave birth to Sydney. Perhaps a windmill will appear at the 2020 Games.

Meantime, Evans, when asked as a contestant on a US TV reality show called Celebrity Circus of late what the highlight of her career was, she cited the moment that she handed the Olympic torch over to Muhammad Ali at the 1996 Olympics, just before the legendary boxer lit the cauldron in which the flame would burn throughout the Games in Atlanta.

She admitted to sobbing uncontrollably as Ali was escorted from the stadium. 'I was physically paralysed. All the training, the success, I'd give up every gold medal for the moment. It was everything to me, beyond description. That was the defining moment of my career.' Fit to light the flame in anyone stepping up over in Omaha today.