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September 13, 2000
Perec pours her heart outAndrew Browne
Cold, trapped in her hotel room and hounded by reporters, French triple Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec complains she has yet to start training in Sydney for her showdown with Australian icon Cathy Freeman.
Breaking a silence since arriving in Australia, the volatile sprint star has poured out her troubles on her web site, suggesting she was the victim of a plot to throw her off balance ahead of her 400 metres clash with Freeman, one of the most eagerly-anticipated races of the Games.
"It's crazy," she wrote, kicking-off an angry outburst on her site with a moan about the chilly spring weather.
"What infuriates me most is the Australian media who say whatever they like about me."
The Guadeloupe-born Perec, who has been plagued by sickness and injury since winning gold in Atlanta in 1996, lashed out at media "rumours" and "gratuitous attacks".
Australian newspapers have branded Perec a petulant prima donna in contrast to her main rival Freeman, who is a darling of the media. The Aboriginal Freeman is a hot favourite to win the 400 metres crown.
"My impression is that everything is fabricated to destabilise me," Perec wrote.
She said she had been isolated in her hotel room for three days with no opportunity to train. Whenever she emerged she was pursued by journalists.
"The other day I almost had a car crash," she said.
"I hope this will all come to an end and I can start concentrating," she added.
Perec's isolation seems to be largely of her own making.
French team officials offered to move her from her hotel, which is packed with French journalists, and into the athletes' village. She declined.
But since finding herself seated next to a reporter at breakfast on her first day, Perec apparently has been ordering room service.
She is just as stand-offish with her own teammates, and plans to train separately with her German coach.
Perec did not join her colleagues at a training session on Wednesday that was open to reporters.
In Atlanta, Perec won gold in both the 400 metres and 200 metres.
She is aiming for her third successive Olympics 400 metres gold in Sydney, which would be an astonishing turnaround for the runner who has hardly raced in the past year, and was almost counted out of competition after coming down with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Whether the 32-year-old Frenchwoman is capable of pulling off a win is one of the big mysteries of the Games.
She has hidden her form by pulling out of meetings this year in London, Monaco and Brussels.
Australian media have accused her of dodging races against Freeman.
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