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NO. 8

Olympic hopeful

Former South Side track standout DeDee Nathan hopes to compete in Sydney in 2000.

DeDee Nathan has been so close to the Olympics, she could almost hear the opening ceremonies.

She hopes to feel the full impact in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.

Nathan twice has finished within seconds of making the United States Olympic Team in the heptathlon, a seven-event test of speed, strength and endurance. She was fourth in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Trials. Just this past year, she set a new American record in the pentathlon and established herself as a possible heir to Jackie Joyner-Kersee as one of America's best all-around female athletes.

Success on the track came early.

At South Side High School, Nathan led the Archers to back-to-back state championships in 1985 and 1986, setting records in the 300-meter hurdles. She remains a record-holder in the 1,600-meter relay, where she teamed with Cathey Tyree, Angela Goodman and Trudy McCloud in 1983.

"That was the most beautiful relay team I've ever seen," former South Side coach Bobbi Widmann-Foust said. Tyree and Goodman also went on to compete in the Olympic Trials before their careers ended.

Nathan went on to a solid four years at Indiana University, then began to hit her stride as an international athlete when she won the gold medal in the heptathlon in the 1991 Pan American Games.

Nathan's near-decade chase of Joyner-Kersee in the heptathlon came to an end when she finished second in Joyner-Kersee's farewell hep at the Goodwill Games last year.

"Everyone wants some kind of magic, some kind of explanation for my talent surge or whatever," Nathan said. "The only thing I've changed is my relationship with God, and if (the media) won't acknowledge that when I say it, then there's no reason to interview me."

Track is also paying off for Nathan in other ways. She earned $50,000 for her pentathlon championship during the indoor season.

Although Nathan missed qualifying for the 1999 World Championships because of a no-height in the high jump, she rebounded with a fourth-place finish at a hep event in France, and improved her career best in the javelin in the process.

Nathan is 31, reaching the end of a long, fruitful run, and heads into her final Olympic year as the United States' best medal hope.