Afterward, Gray listened, intrigued, as Kibet answered questions about himself. He is 23 and lives in the western Kenyan town of Kericho, which is in the tea-growing region of the country. This was his first trip outside Kenya. He is a soldier in the Kenyan army and a member of the Kipsigis, the tribe of Wilson Kiprugut, who in 1964 became the first Kenyan to win a medal in the Olympics. Kibet had been a promising 400 meter hurdler. Bislett was only his fourth serious 800. Asked how many more races he thought he would have to run before breaking the world record, Kibet replied, "One more." Gray pointed to the name Sebastian Coe next to the current record of 1:41.73. Kibet had never heard of him.
One person Kibet may have heard of was Carl Lewis, who also finished second in Oslo, in the 100 meters. Calvin Smith, the bronze medalist in the Seoul 100 won by Lewis, not only upset Lewis but also ruined his 28th birthday. Smith ran a 10.05, breaking Lewis's stadium record of 10.19, set eight years ago. Lewis ran a 10.11.
By 11:20 p.m. the stadium lights were burning in the gathering darkness. The crowd was still intoxicated by Ondieki's race when the runners were called to the line for the Dream Mile, the final event of the night. Attention focused on two men: Cram, who had set the world record of 3:46.32 at this same meet in 1985, and Bile, the world 1,500-meter champion in 1987, who had missed the Olympics due to a stress fracture of his left foot. At the start Cram fell in behind the first rabbit, Ken Washington of the U.S., and Bile hovered at the back of the pack.
Cram wanted a hard pace. Although he had won the last four Dream Miles, he feared Bile's kick. Four days earlier he had watched a meet in Lausanne on television and saw Bile storm down the homestretch of the 800, failing by inches to steal the race from the most formidable kicker in the business, Olympic 800-meter champion Paul Ereng of Kenya. "I hoped my strength would beat Bile's sharpness," said Cram later. He followed a step behind Washington, who clocked a 1:54.08 for 880 yards.
Bile had started slowly. He was ninth at the 880 split, but on the penultimate back-stretch he was flying. With 660 yards to go, Bile moved into fourth place and had Cram in his sights. By now Simon Hoogewerf of Canada had taken over for Washington as the rabbit, and he pulled Cram to three laps in 2:52.23. Cram strained to separate himself from Bile. Amazingly, it wasn't Bile who caught Cram first but yet another Kenyan, 19-year-old Wilfred Kirochi, who last year won the world junior 1,500 and this year finished third in the senior world cross-country championships.
Right behind Kirochi were Bile and Ireland's Marcus O'Sullivan. With 220 remaining, Cram was suddenly fourth and out of the race. Bile gained on Kirochi all the way around the last turn. Swinging out into the second lane, he caught Kirochi with 80 meters to go and sprinted to the tape. Bile won in 3:49.90, .59 faster than Kirochi, who hung on for second. Cram was fourth, two yards behind recent Arkansas graduate Joe Falcon, who ran a personal best 3:51.07.
Bile's seemingly effortless victory was all the more noteworthy because he has been injured for most of this year. The stress fracture that kept him out of the Olympics led to a sore back and a strained right Achilles. From January to April it seemed that for every five days Bile trained, he had to take off another five because of complications connected with his injuries.
In the coming weeks Bile plans to hone his speed by racing more 800s. Then he will turn again to his true distances, the 1,500 and the mile. If those races include both Cram and Aouita, they should produce great drama. It is not just the fans who would welcome the spectacle. Said Ondieki, "The best athletes always give you something to look forward to."