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Danny Harris

Danny Harris has gone from boy wonder to prodigal son in the last decade, and now he threatens to be one of the men battling for gold in the 400 hurdles in Atlanta. His story is a compelling one. He was raised by his grandmother in Perris, California; his father died when he was 3, his mother when he was 14. A defensive back, he always dreamed of playing in the NFL some day. The Olympics never entered his mind. He had never run the 400H in high school, though he did set a national record of 35.52 over the 300 lows. He went off to Iowa State for football and track.

In the spring, Harris adapted well to the higher intermediates; in his third race he broke the World Junior Record with a 49.55. He kept winning, and kept getting faster, with records of 49.44, 49.16, 48.81 and 48.02. He only lost twice in 1984: to Edwin Moses at the Olympic Trials, and at the Olympic Games.

"For me to beat Moses," he predicted to Track & Field News, "it would take running a perfect race."

Harris returned to Iowa State that fall for football, but he soon dropped it after a knee injury felled him in his first game. "I think track has won out," he said.

After three years at Iowa State and three NCAA titles, he decided to leave the program. Iowa State's Steve Lynn stayed on as his coach. Harris' most famous races came in 1987. In Madrid on June 4, he led Moses for most of the race. The veteran, undefeated for nearly 10 years, caught Harris at the last hurdle but then clipped it. Harris won, 47.56 to 47.69, stopping the Moses win streak at 107. "Edwin hitting the hurdle didn't make the difference. I feel I could have outkicked him at the finish," said Harris, responding to Moses' claim that he got "lucky."

A return to the Olympics in 1988 would not happen. At the Trials, bothered by a sore hamstring, he ran a great 47.76 but came in 5th in one of the greatest hurdle races ever. He moved back to California. The crushing disappointment of missing the team, Harris has said, is what led him to a cocaine addition. "That was a tough time," he said. "I never felt so disappointed in my life." The next year, he ranked No. 4 in the world, but it had been a sub-par season, the slowest of his career.

In 1990, a reinvigorated Harris appeared. "I just wanted to come out and win and re-establish my confidence," he told T&FN. He ran 47.49, missing his PR by 0.01. He also broke a Moses record for the most sub-48s in one season (8). The momentum lasted most of the way through 1991, but at the World Championships in Tokyo, Harris had run dry. Zambia's Samuel Matete went out fast and captured the gold in 47.64. Harris ran only 5th: "I realized I was off the pace at the start and I pressed too hard."

The Olympics wouldn't happen in 1992 for Harris. He didn't show at the Olympic Trials. At the USA Indoor, his cocaine problem caught up with him and he tested positive, earning a four-year ban. He originally planned to appeal, but coach Bob Kersee persuaded him to enter a rehabilitation program instead. Harris lost his new house and his shoe contract. "Danny wants to concentrate on getting his life in order," said Kersee.

In 1994, Harris applied to USATF for early reinstatement on the grounds that his rehabilitation had been successful. USATF granted the request, and Harris started racing. Though he foundered at the USA Championships (51.69 for 7th in his semi), he came to life in Europe, recording a best of 48.18 in Lausanne. Then on the eve of the London Grand Prix meet, the IAAF suddenly noticed Harris competing. Announcing that only the IAAF has the right to lift a ban, the organization sat him down. Careful politicking by USATF and Kersee helped to lift the ban in time for the 1995 campaign.

Last year, finally back in the saddle, Harris rode a roller coaster of a season. He couldn't make the USA Championship final, but he broke 48 seconds four times in Europe. He beat World Champ Derrick Adkins three times (more than anyone else) and hit a best of 47.56. Though he had some problems with inconsistent performances, he says, "Once I get my rhythm together, it's not a problem to run fast consistently."

For 1996, he has returned to Iowa, the base he worked from for his first trip to the Olympics. Lynn is his coach once again. "Training is going great," says Harris. "It's always nice to be where your coach is. I think it's a good move for me."

Harris has seen it all during his career, and he believes his troubles may have made him stronger. "Things are in better perspective now," he says. "I think life is what you make of it. Sometimes we're thrown curve balls. How you handle those is the true measure of a person's strength. When I went to the Olympics in '84 I was 18 and there was no pressure on me. It was just fun.

"Then you win the medal and all of a sudden you figure out that the shoe companies are interested in this, and you can make a living doing this. In order to survive in that environment you have to win and you have to win consistently, or at least be in the top 5. That takes it from being fun to more of a business. And then you have to make a transition and go forward.

"Anybody who laces up their spikes goes out every meet to win. Track and field is very competitive, particularly in the United States. To be the best you have to go out and perform. I love competition."

One of the greatest hurdlers of all time, Harris is clearly back. Can he now return to the Olympics after a 12-year absence and capture the gold that seemed so inevitable when he was 18?

Career Stats


Born September 7, 1965 in Torrance, Ca

6-0/1.83m	170/77kg

Perris HS (Ca) '83

Iowa State '86

unattached



PRs (outdoor):

100--10.5 '84 (9.9w '84)

200--20.91 '84

400-- 45.19 '86

800--1:49.48 '92

110H--14.00 '86

400H--47.38 '91



PRs (indoor):

400--45.89 '90

500--1:01.36 '86



Major Meets (400H unless noted):

1984	4)NCAA Indoor 400

1984	1)NCAA

1984	2)Olympic Trials

1984	2)Olympic Games

1985	1)NCAA

1985	2)USA

1986	2h)NCAA Indoor 500

1986	1)NCAA

1986	1)USA

1986	3)GP Final

1987	2)USA

1987	2)World Championships

1988	5)Olympic Trials

1988	1)GP Final

1990	2)GP Final

1991	1)USA

1991	4)World Championships

1994	7s)USA

1995	5s)USA



Major Relays:

1984	4)NCAA Indoor 4 x 400 [4]

1985	3)NCAA 4 x 400 [3]

1986	8)NCAA 4 x 400 [4]

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