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Ode to Joy
Kenny Moore
August 17, 1992
Carl Lewis exulted along with all of Barcelona's gold medalist, many of whom vanquished giants to win their events
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August 17, 1992

Ode To Joy

Carl Lewis exulted along with all of Barcelona's gold medalist, many of whom vanquished giants to win their events

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In Barcelona, Watts seemed the image of blithe youth, unaffected by dangers all around. U.S. trials champion Danny Everett's weak right Achilles tendon would not carry him through Watts's semi. In the other semi, won by Seoul champion Steve Lewis, Britain's Derek Redmond went down on the backstretch with a torn right hamstring. As the medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. "It was animal instinct," he would say later. He set out hopping, in a crazed attempt to finish the race. When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. This was Jim Redmond, Derek's father. "You don't have to do this," he told his weeping son.

"Yes, I do," said Derek.

"Well, then," said Jim, "we're going to finish this together."

And so they did. Fighting off security men, the son's head sometimes buried in his father's shoulder, they stayed in Derek's lane to the end, as the crowd gaped, then rose and howled and wept. "What was Dad thinking?" said Redmond the next day, mortified. "What was I thinking?" Later he would be buried in an avalanche of messages from those moved by his Olympian dementia.

In the final Watts kept an eye on Steve Lewis, three lanes outside, and moved so hard going into the second turn that he reached the stretch with a five-meter lead. He tried so hard that he clearly tightened, but he kept his lead and won in 43.50, another Olympic record, the second-fastest 400 ever run. Lewis was second, in 44.21. "The more you run this race," Watts said, "the easier it gets."

There seems an aspect of ease, of Zen bliss, to the smooth, round face of men's 200-meter champion Mike Marsh. He, too, broke the Olympic record in a semi, easing over the finish line to find he had dashed an unexpected 19.73, only .01 from Pietro Mennea's world record. Had he not floated in, Marsh clearly would have run 19.65 or better, so his hopes for the final were considerable. It was interesting how he dealt with them. "I thought I could run faster," he said, "but I knew I couldn't press. When you run fast, it feels easy. So I kept telling myself to relax."

Settling into the blocks for the final, Marsh looked as relaxed as a cat on a couch. But at the gun he didn't move with feline alacrity. "I practically walked out of the blocks," said Marsh. "I thought, Well, this isn't working." He caught Frank Fredericks of Namibia by the time they reached the stretch and sprinted powerfully past to win in 20.01, a time the greedy crowd greeted with disappointment. But few are better equipped than Marsh to deal with the delicate mixture of emotions that follows a victory in which you haven't done your best. Still contained, he said, "I'm a little regretful, but it's not going to make me lose sleep."

Gwen Torrence appeared in all the other women sprinters' dreams, shaking her finger. Torrence raced with grit and steel, winning the women's 200 in 21.81 from Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert. Torrence also ran a blazing leg on the U.S. 4 x 400-meter relay team, which finished second to the Unified Team, and anchored the U.S. 4 x 100-meter relay to gold in 42.11, taking great pleasure in passing the Unified Team's Irina Privalova in doing so. Privalova was one of the opponents who Torrence believed had used performance-enhancing drugs. She had told Cuthbert, an old friend, that she suspected both Privalova and 100-meter champion Gail Devers. When Cuthbert repeated that for the press, all hell broke loose.

It was no good for Torrence to say, "It's not an accusation, it's just an opinion," because those named felt as if they'd been hit with hot bacon grease. Devers's coach, Bob Kersee, worked his way furiously up the ladder of officialdom, TAC to USOC to IAAF, demanding an investigation or a reprimand of Torrence. He got the latter. Torrence released a statement saying she regretted her actions. Still, it all seemed unnecessary, as Torrence ignored the lesson Carl Lewis had learned as long ago as the 1987 world championships, when he suspected Ben Johnson: Without hard evidence, it does no good to opine.

Devers left her defense to Kersee and went to the 100-meter hurdles. In the final she found herself flying at the final barrier in control of the race, about to complete the women's sprint-hurdles double for the first time since Fanny Blankers-Koen in 1948.

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