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|August 31, 2000||
Long jump row threatens Aussie-U.S. harmonyMitch Phillips at the Gold Coast
The harmonious relationship between the track and field teams of Australia and the United States has been strained by a row between the countries' long jumpers.
The two teams are sharing training facilities at Nudgee College, north of Brisbane, and are due to compete in a series of pre-Olympic meets in Queensland over the next two weeks.
But Australia's Jai Taurima and Americans Melvin Lister and Savante Stringfellow have exchanged taunts this week adding some spice to the teams' track meet at Nudgee on Sunday.
Taurima fired the opening salvo on Tuesday when he said Americans could not perform outside their own country and that he was more concerned about his competitors from Russia and the Ukraine.
"Those guys are just dribblers (talkers)," said Taurima, the Australian record holder with a best of 8.35 metres set at last year's world championships.
Taurima's best this season is just 8.06m, way short of what will be needed to make the Olympic final. Lister's season best is 8.49m while Stringfellow has gone 8.30m.
Both the Americans are considered genuine medal contenders although Cuban world champion Ivan Pedroso, whose best leap this year is 8.65m, remains a strong favourite.
Taurima, an extrovert, known for his relaxed ways which include smoking and riding a motorcycle, remains unconcerned.
"I respect what Lister has done but statistics don't mean anything when it comes to the Olympics," he said.
Unsurprisingly the Americans were less than impressed by his comments.
"We have already dismissed him, we don't think he has a chance," said Stringfellow.
"I'll be here training and if he wants to come here and take notes, I'll invite him to come."
Lister added: "I am number two in the world this year and someone who can't hit 8.20m can't say too much to me.
"I hope we don't get into an argument, I hope it doesn't come to that."
None of the three were sure if they were going to compete in the low-key Nudgee meet on Sunday but with further competitions planned for the 10th and 17th of September on the Gold Coast their paths seem certain to cross before the Olympics begin.
Mail Sports Editor
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