It was a fierce contest of record and counter-record, ploy and double ploy, and by the time it ended in the sunny stadium in Palo Alto last week the second largest crowd in U.S. track history had seen the home team once again defeat the Russian men in a mighty duel of mighty powers. The 153,500 spectators who nearly filled the arena through the two-day meet enormously enjoyed the show and, if at first they were minding their manners by applauding Russian and American players alike, they soon became as partisan as Dodger fans at a Giant game. They had reason to cheer. The U.S. men, inspired by Harold Connolly, a huge, spinning dervish, outmuscled and outran the Russians, 128-107, while the Soviet women gained solace for their squad, winning 66-41.
The meet totals were about as expected, but seldom if ever before has so much fancy running, jumping and throwing been backed up by so much equally vigorous thinking. Some of the cerebration backfired, but much was audaciously successful. Connolly set the pattern. He had for some time been taking four wind-up whirls before releasing the hammer. For this meet he decided to try three spins instead. He also drew moral support from the crowd. He rarely performs before one, since safety usually requires that the hammer event be held outside of track stadiums. Almost effortlessly he set a new world record. But Russian Coach Gabriel Korobkov was thinking, too; namely, that Pyotr Bolotnikov, the 32-year-old instructor and Olympic distance runner, was ripe for the 10,000 meters even though he was listed to run in the 5,000. Bolotnikov ran and won them both, using some tricky pacing to help score a most difficult double. A Russian plan failed, however, in the 1,500 meters when the U.S.S.R. men tried to set a fast early pace so that America's Jim Beatty, known for his finishing kick, would be tired at the end. They found out Beatty could keep up and kick too. Ralph Boston won the broad jump over world record holder Igor Ter-Ovanesyan by putting all his effort into an early leap and watching the Russian record holder tie himself into knots trying to equal it—a subtle early-foot strategy that also paid off for Al Oerter in the discus. Otherwise, in the sprints, relays, 400 and 800 meters and shotput the U.S. was overpowering, while in the walk, triple jump, javelin and decathlon the visitors were supreme.
It was left for the brightest of the Red stars, High Jumper Valeri Brumel, to bring off the Russians' best athletic feat and a thinking man's coup as well. On Saturday he learned to say "thank you very much" in English. In case he should lose, he also learned "very well done." The next day he cleared the bar at a world's record 7 feet 5 inches to beat John Thomas. "Very well done," said Thomas.
Replied the thoroughly prepared Brumel: "Thank you very much."
The dual meet often developed into a series of spectacular duels, man against man. Sometimes one was from Russia, the other from America; sometimes both were from the same land. In either case, it was exciting moments such as those shown here that the great crowds at the stadium in Palo Alto had come to see: Ralph Boston producing his best jump of the year to beat Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, who had wrested Boston's world record away; Valeri Brumel, handsome and unbeatable as ever, launching himself with a tremendous kick at the last possible second to jump higher than anyone ever has; Jerry Tarr driving over the high hurdles like a frightened impala to beat Hayes Jones to the tape.
It not only was the best track meet of the year, it also was the prettiest. Soviet women athletes have always seemed more attractive than Soviet women clerks or housewives, and now the Americans are catching up in this respect as well as in the events on the field. But it is difficult to be beautiful under the strain of competition, and Elvira Ozolina grimaces with the effort of a record javelin throw; Galina Yevsyukova scowls after finishing second to a teammate in the high jump; Olga Connolly broods over her second-place discus throw. But in action or repose, red or red-white-and-blue, black or white, male or female, no one in Palo Alto could match the incomparable Wilma Rudolph Ward for effortless grace and poise.