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All afternoon, world-record holder Ulf Timmermann of East Germany had mauled the Olympic shot put record, and on his fifth throw he punched it up again, from 70'�" to 73'1�".
And all afternoon. Randy Barnes of the U.S. had been, as he would put it, "sleepwalking. I was in awe of the whole situation. I was hesitant, afraid of fouling. That meant that I couldn't get into position to snap the shot off my fingers. I was palming it like a knuckleball."
Before the last of his six attempts, Barnes had thrown but 69'11" and stood in fourth place. He seemed destined to relive two decades of frustrating U.S. experience in Olympic shot-putting. Time and again, since America's Randy Matson won this event in 1968, such strong U.S. entries as George Woods, Al Feuerbach and Michael Carter have been numbed enough by the ultimate arena to achieve, at best, second. Barnes knew what he had to do to turn things around. Everybody always does. But the knowing is the easy part. "It took some reckless abandon," he said. Barnes stepped into the ring, whirled, released the shot from the tips of his fingers and put it an Olympic-record 73'5�". It was arguably the greatest come-through throw in U.S. Olympic shot-putting history.
"I felt such relief," Barnes said later. "I didn't think I'd get a throw like that." Nor did he think anyone else would.
The shocked Timmermann, unexpectedly shoved into second, stepped into the ring for his final throw and placed the shot under his chalked jaw. There it gave the impression of being electrified, because his face slowly twisted into a rictus of concentration. Then he produced the finest come-through throw in East German Olympic shot-putting history: 73'8�". He had won.
Barnes was now a doubly dazed silver medalist. "I'm impressed," he said. "I thought I had it. It was a tremendous effort on his part. He earned it."
Never has there been an Olympic shot put competition to equal it, and the battle of Barnes and Timmermann, which couldn't have happened in the divided Games of 1980 and '84, served as a powerful reminder that this was an Olympics that spread its wings over nearly the whole world.
In the men's 800 on Monday, 1984 Olympic champion Joaquim Cruz of Brazil and the wildly ambitious Said Aouita of Morocco, who had said he was going for the virtually impossible 800-1,500-5,000-meter triple, were outrun in the stretch by the expressionless Paul Ereng of Kenya and the University of Virginia. Ereng completed his dazzling first season of running this distance—he's also the NCAA 800 champion—by winning going away in 1:43.45 to Cruz's 1:43.90 and Aouita's 1:44.06. Then a Kenyan flag was flung from the stands, and Ereng took it on a victory lap wondrous for its solemn dignity.
Later that same day, Aouita's thunder was stolen again, this time by Moroccan teammate Brahim Boutayeb, whose Olympic-record 27:21.46 win in the 10,000 inspired such a surge of brotherhood that he stopped at the finish line to embrace the guys behind him, Salvatore Antibo of Italy and Kipkemboi Kimeli of Kenya.
As expected, East Germany's practically indistinguishable Sigrun Wodars and Christine Wachtel finished one-two in the women's 800, in 1:56.10 and 1:56.64, respectively, but Kim Gallagher of the U.S. slipped neatly out of a box on the final turn and strode in a strong third, narrowly missing Mary Slaney's U.S. mark of 1:56.90 with a 1:56.91.