August 1, 1996
Gramantik's running every step, too
By LARRY TUCKER -- Calgary Sun
ATLANTA -- Coach Les Gramantik admitted the butterflies in his belly felt like 747s as he sat in the Olympic Stadium, watching Mike Smith go through Day 1 of the decathlon yesterday.
"I'm an excitable guy at the best of times. But, right now, my legs feel like linguini. Mike's OK, though.
"We had a chat last night about what's possible or not possible and he was pretty confident about his abilities. He's in the right frame of mind. He was twice as relaxed as me this morning."
As the field of 40 athletes competed in the first five of 10 events, Smith often gazed up to the stands for help and reassurance. It's an accepted practice even though it's not supposed to happen according to the strict interpretation of the rules.
"He doesn't need a lot of help," said Gramantik, who works out of the University of Calgary and has coached his old friend since Smith made the decision to shift his training base to Calgary from Toronto after the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
"I think a lot of us coaches tend to over-emphasize our importance and our role at this point. There are just little things I can suggest he do."
The suggestions come through hand signals. The two have condensed the various events into key points and Smith has them written in a book he carries to trackside in his equipment bag.
"I'll hold up my fingers for point one, two or three and he'll look at it in his notes," Gramantik said.
"For instance, in the long jump, one would be that he really has to leave his mark on the runway very strongly. There's a tendency to shorten up or chop up the beginning.
"Two would be to crowd the board. To turn it over and feel the feet on it."
This easy communication between athlete and coach was one reason Smith chose Calgary as his training site.
"We'd kept in touch all through the years. I'd known Michael from the first world junior team in 1986 when I was a coach with the team.
"But I never suggested to anyone that Mike move. Relocation is a very tricky business at all times of your life.
"I promised him I could offer him a great training opportunity and my expertise. But, as to whether he'd like Calgary, there were no guarantees.
"But he loved it from Day 1. A lot of things, he knew ... the outdoors, the very quiet lifestyle, the closeness of all facilities."