Thunder cracked and rolled as Larry Myricks stood on the runway, his mind racing. This would be his second long jump attempt in these U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, a meet that became an nine-day outpouring of the great American talents for sprinting, hurdling and jumping—and left a few of the best behind.
Florence Griffith Joyner would break the U.S. women's 200-meter record in high style, and her sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, would win the women's long jump. Mary Slaney, already the 3,000-meter winner, would command the 1,500 with such ease that she may win both distances in Seoul. Butch Reynolds would near a noble standard in the 400.
But no event had a more compelling context than Myricks long jumping against Carl Lewis.
Below masses of violent black cloud, a curtain of drought-ending rain was sweeping toward the Indiana University Track and Field Stadium in Indianapolis. Myricks watched it.
These had been the conditions in Mexico City on Oct. 18, 1968, at the moment of Bob Beamon's godlike world record of 29'2�". After Beamon's jolt, the skies had opened. The other competitors at those Olympics were left stunned and sopping.
Now Myricks could take the last dry jump. Finally, after losing to Lewis 33 times since 1981, he could seize his moment. He could plunge Lewis into the storm. "I knew full well he jumps better when it's warm," Myricks would say.
Lewis, too, eyed the heavens. His first attempt had been a tentative 27'4�". He sensed that the four swift runs it had taken to win the 100 meters and the two rounds of the 200 he had run that day had taken something from his jumping.
Myricks waited until the first huge drops were splattering on the track. He sprinted powerfully, hit the board with a boom and jumped 28'3/4", exploding from the sand with his fist up as the rain became a deluge. It seemed the officials might have to interrupt the competition.
But no, there was Lewis, standing stock-still on the approach, rain bouncing in an aura of backlit spray from his shoulders. Now he waited, ignoring all but the act before him, as the stands, which had trembled with people running for cover, fell silent.
"He froze that crowd," said UCLA sprint coach John Smith. "He waited until the rain was at its hardest."