Cuban ex-Olympic hurdles champion Garcia retires
HAVANA -- Former Olympic hurdles champion Anier Garcia is retiring from the sport after battling a series of injuries.
Garcia, who beat Allen Johnson and two other Americans to win the 110-meter hurdles at the 2000 Sydney Games, said Thursday in a telephone interview from his Havana home that he was sad to be leaving the sport. But he added that he was happy the Cuban team has already found his successor in world record-holder Dayron Robles, who won gold in the 110-meter hurdles in Beijing.
"It's a strange sensation. I still feel active but it's time for me to retire," Garcia told The Associated Press. "I'm a little bit sad and somewhat frustrated because I was unable to achieve some things, but my greatest satisfaction is Dayron's victory in Beijing."
The 32-year-old Garcia, who finished third in Athens in 2004, failed to qualify for the Beijing Games and said he has been slowed by numerous, lingering injuries. He said his greatest memory was the gold medal in Sydney.
"It was great. That day I felt very good and confident in my abilities," he said. "I beat all my rivals, including my biggest one, the one I most admire, American Allen Johnson."
But he called his greatest athletic achievement winning bronze in Athens four years later.
"I was able to recover from an injury," he said. "I found that extra step that no one knew I had, not even me."
Garcia, who has a 4-year-old son and holds a college degree in physical education, said he was disappointed he never won a world championship.
"I had to settle with two silver medals," he said, referring to his finishes in 1999 and 2001. "Because two times I ran into the same obstacle, Johnson beat me."
He also failed to achieve his goal of running a time under 13.0 seconds, which he clocked in the Sydney final and remains his personal best.
"I was close many times but I hit a hurdle and I failed," he said. "It's still a thorn in my side because, even at my best moment, I never could break the world record."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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