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A first-round 45.78 had him on his knees. "But the leg held up," he said. "Confidence made 44.54 in the quarterfinals more comfortable. I knew then it was mine."
Three men knew it was theirs, even though two had to be wrong. Lewis came off the track after his blazing 44.11 semi, and said to Smith, "That was easy."
"Yeah," said Smith. "That's the lesson. When you're relaxed, you're in control. Control isn't force. It's the ability to use the force."
A wet wind seemed to rule out fast times in the final. But 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Antonio McKay set out to steal the race, tearing down the back-stretch. Lewis eagerly caught him before the 200. Then Reynolds, his arms hooking powerfully, burned the curve and led into the stretch.
Everett, light-footed-and balanced, was in perfect position, two feet back with 90 long brick-red meters to go.
Smith, who often works in films—you can see him briefly in Dragnet—had taught Everett an actor's secret, saying, "Your greatest freedom is your smallest focus." In this case that meant his own knees, his own lane, his own unstrained effort.
Reynolds had used everything he had. "I won't lie," he said. "I was just holding on."
Everett gained. And saw himself gaining. And expanded his focus. And pressed too hard. And lost his footrace. Reynolds reached the line with a foot and a half on him.
Their times were 43.93 and 43.98. The 44-second barrier had been breached for the first time since Evans and Larry James (43.97) did it in Mexico City. But Reynolds's and Everett's efforts would be worth 43.6's in the thin, still air of that afternoon long ago.
"Doggone it, I had him," said Everett. "I can't believe I reacted like that in the stretch."