SI Vault
Roy Terrell
July 24, 1961
Valeri Brumel jumped higher than anyone ever had, but U.S. track men were faster and stronger. They won a duel of giants in Moscow's Lenin Stadium.
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July 24, 1961

The High Meet The Mighty

Valeri Brumel jumped higher than anyone ever had, but U.S. track men were faster and stronger. They won a duel of giants in Moscow's Lenin Stadium.

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While Nikita slept

Eventually the bus rumbled on. It got lost in Red Square, three blocks from the Metropole, and there ensued a loud discussion between the driver and the interpreter that threatened to awaken Stalin. Evidently the two Russians realized they might really awaken Khrushchev, so they shut up and searched for a while and finally found the hotel at 3 a.m. "The team from where?" asked the night attendant at the front desk. Everyone was in bed by 4 a.m. The sun was rising over the steppes.

In the week that followed, the team from the U.S. discovered a lot more about the enigma known as the U.S.S.R. At Lenin Stadium, where there are locker rooms that would stir envy in the hearts of the New York Yankees, there were no towels. "Towels are for footballers," they were told. "Trackmen bring their own." The lift in the Metro-pole could carry an unlimited number of people up, but only three people down. There was only one menu per table in the restaurants, and only one towel per room in the hotel. There it stayed, the same towel. Food and clothing were expensive, service cheap—when service could be had. "The main concern of every waiter in the Soviet Union," explained one frank Russian, "is to see that customers do not return."

American boys, looking for Russian girls, discovered that here, of all the places they had been, the language problem was truly insurmountable. But if the track team found out, almost immediately, that Moscow was not like home, it also discovered that the city was full of strange and frequently wonderful sights. There was a tour of the Kremlin and a visit to Moscow University with its magnificent view over the steeples and towers of the great old city. Some team members saw Gorki Park, a combination Coney Island and Central Park, and they looked in awe at the world's largest—and emptiest—fresh-water swimming pool. John Thomas led a buying spree on Cossack-type fur hats (9 rubles 30 kopecks at GUM—U.S. supermarket equivalent: $2.33) and everyone rode the famous Moscow subway.

They also had to get ready for a track meet, and by Saturday they were ready. In the first event (for complete meet statistics see page 60) Rudolph floated down the red crushed-brick track in 11.3 in her record-equaling race. She had not been training very hard and she was not pushed.

A few minutes later Budd ran 10.3, beating his Villanova teammate, Paul Drayton, by a yard. For a man who had set a world 100-yard record of 9.2 just three weeks before, this was not spectacular 100-meter time, and Budd appeared to be tight. "I guess I was nervous," he said. "The first race and everything. I'll do better."

Hayes Jones won the high hurdles (he also won in 1959) by running 13.8. But he didn't pull away from the two Russians, Anatoli Mikhailov and Valentin Chistiakov, until the seventh hurdle, and Francis Washington, who did not get a good start, had to come fast at the end to grab third in a photo finish. Mikhailov, Washington and Chistiakov each ran 13.9, and the Americans had to admit that Russian hurdling had improved.

Both nations turned it on in the 400-meter-relay event. There was little doubt that the American men would win once Budd took the baton from Hayes Jones and sent the U.S. into a two-yard lead at the end of the second leg. Charles Frazier opened the gap to three yards, and Drayton crossed the line four yards ahead.

"The baton exchanges weren't too good," said Oliver Jackson, one of the U.S. coaches, "but they don't have to be too good when you can run like that. Those are great sprinters out there." The time was 39.1, four-tenths of a second under the old world record set by U.S. and German Olympic teams. The Russians, in furnishing such terrific competition, ran a 39.4 themselves. Their exchanges were very good—they had worked together for weeks—but their runners just weren't as fast.

The Russian women, on the other hand, were faster in the relay than the U.S. women—until they came to Wilma. Willye White led off the American team and held her ground, but both Earnestine Pollard and Vivian Brown dropped slowly back. Wilma fumbled the hand-off, slowed and looked around. By the time she began to chase the Russian anchor girl, Tatiana Shchelkanova, she was fully five yards behind.

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