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September 11, 2000
Galfione doubtful, France gloomyPatrick Vignal
Doubts about whether Olympic pole vault champion Jean Galfione would defend his title in Sydney added to the gloom surrounding the French camp on Sunday.
The Atlanta gold medallist is not the country's only concern. Prospects such as sprinter Marie-Jose Perec, heptathlete Eunice Barber and hurdler Stephane Diagana, also seemed far off their bests.
Coach Maurice Houvion said Galfione would decide whether to leave for Australia as scheduled on Wednesday only after passing a final fitness test in Paris.
"He sounds confident and much more optimistic than a few days ago," Houvion said. "I think he will come."
Galfione, who underwent lung surgery in June, is suffering from sore heels and failed to clear a single height at his last three meetings.
"If I feel that I have no chance to do anything at the Games, I will not go," Galfione said last week.
Perec, France's other Olympic athletics champion, ended speculation that she might pull out when she landed in Sydney on Friday.
The 32-year-old, who won the 200-400 metres double in Atlanta in 1996, avoided journalists and retreated to her hotel in the exclusive Darling Harbour district.
Perec, who has been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, has hardly competed this year raising questions about her ability to challenge Australia's one-lap hero, Cathy Freeman.
Heptathlon world champion Barber has also already arrived in Australia but she is still hampered by a recurrent knee injury which forced her to miss a meeting last week in Nancy, France.
"The pain bothers me for the long jump and the high jump," she said. "I know the doctors will do everything they can. At the moment there's not much I can do but pray."
Diagana, the 400 metres hurdles world champion from 1997 and a silver medallist last year in Seville, was not in much better shape.
"Injuries are part of a top athlete's life and certainly a big part of mine," he said.
The 31-year-old, who missed the Atlanta Games through injury, had only just recovered from abdominal pain when he hurt his knee and has entered just one race this season.
In recent training sessions he ran only the 400 metres flat and he was still not certain to enter the Olympic competition.
"I'll do a test on the hurdles on September 18," he said. "If everything goes okay, I'm in."
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