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The Americans, for the most part, were rat-free, uncomplaining and relaxed. U.S. Track Coach Bob Giegengack of Yale had been advised in New York a year ago to train his team outside of Tokyo, and the farther outside the better. The advice had come from Soviet Coach Gabriel Korobkov. "He told me we'd find ourselves trampled to death in the Olympic Village in Tokyo," Giegengack recalled. "He said there was no place to throw the hammer, discus and javelin, and the track was no good. But it's been all right. It's a little crowded but we've divided our workouts into three different areas. It might as well be Newark as far as we're concerned."
The Soviet track team, at Korobkov's insistence, was training in Utsunomiya, 90 miles northwest of Tokyo, and it was either the most confident team at the Games or the bluffingest. Riding on the high-speed train from Tokyo, Tamara Press yawned and announced that she would win two gold medals. Her sister Irina said she would win the same number. Thus having awarded themselves four gold medals a priori without so much as hefting a discus or lacing on a track shoe, the two irrepressibles went about their business, which in Tamara's case consisted of falling asleep against High Jumper Valeri Brumel (who deftly wriggled free) and filling the railroad car with the sonorous beauty of her snores. She characterized the team: loose, happy, optimistic. Head Coach Korobkov, who, if he were an American, would have to be described bromidically as "a good Joe," explained that the poor Soviet showing at Los Angeles in July was simply a matter of season: the Russian track and field activity starts later than the American. "This time," he said, "we have no excuse and we only have to let the cream of our athletes sweep all possible gold medals." Broad Jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan said he would be able to handle Ralph Boston with no difficulty. Ter-O was more interested in finding out why U.S. officials had called off the spy case in New York.
Wherever one looked, the Soviet training grounds were full of frolics and gambols. A burly Russian finished some warmup exercises, then grabbed one of the girls by the waist and hoisted her high in the air to the accompaniment of giggles and laughs of delight. A Soviet hurdler challenged a female to a race, but both collapsed with laughter midway in the event. Another Russian found himself sprinting against a Japanese official, who gave out after 30 yards and complimented his adversary in an elaborate show of admiration. The cheery Ter-Ovanesyan grabbed a vaulter's pole, took a short run and lifted himself into a tree. Luckily he was not seen by Korobkov, who would have lost some of his good nature at such skylarking.
There was speculation, of course, that the Russians' esprit was strictly from Stanislavski, that it was all part of a plan to "psych out" the Americans, an ancient Olympic ploy. U.S. Shotputter Parry O'Brien, no cherubim himself at this fine art, said that the simple fact that the Russians were training so far away was in itself an attempt at cerebral warfare. "Just listen to all the wild rumors you hear about the Russians doing this and the Russians doing that and you'll know what I mean," he said. For his part, O'Brien was not being psyched out by anybody. One day a Polish shotputter strolled over to him and said, "You throw, me throw, we tape." The Pole's first put was over 62 feet. O'Brien, just back from weight training, was still stiff, and his first attempt fell far short. On the second try the Pole again bettered 62 feet. This time O'Brien figured he had had enough, and he let loose a heave in the neighborhood of 64 feet, a neighborhood his competitor had not yet visited. The Pole picked up his shot, put it in his bag and walked away with Chopinesque dignity.
On the other hand, U.S. Miler Tom O'Hara came away second best from another encounter of the same sort. He ran a workout half mile with New Zealand's Peter Snell and finished up visibly shaken. O'Hara's time was a commendable 1:48 plus. Snell rambled around in 1:47.1, leaving O'Hara, who normally looks like a pale junior-high-schooler, a study in white on white. "Tough," O'Hara mumbled. "He looks tough. He's so strong."
U.S. Men's Swimming Coach Jim Counsilman was singing the blues like Woody Hayes. With his swimmers picked to win just about everything, Counsilman sniffed disaster. "It's damned if you do and damned if you don't," he said. "It's like having to win a football game by 50 points. Why do we have to win everything? I just hope that the boys don't get too tensed up thinking about what they're expected to do." Counsilman said he had noticed that the American girl swimmers, most of them barely into adolescence, seemed jumpy and edgy. "They're not smiling the way they usually do," he said.
They may not have been, but plenty of other young ladies were, especially at night, when they assembled in the International Club of the Olympic Village and danced their pretty heads off. "When the American girls are dancing," said Sprinter Paul Drayton, a firm believer in happiness, "those are the nights, man." Joe Frazier, the heavyweight boxer, chimed in. "They do the crossfire, the pony, the hunt, the monkey. They're all dances, you know."
"You miss the American girls when they're not here," Drayton went on. "The other girls are willing, but they don't know the steps. Our girls were told by one of the coaches not to dance because it might tighten their legs. He didn't say not to dance. There was no ultimatum. He was just advising." Not many took his advice.
Now and then a few athletes wandered into Tokyo and enjoyed various mysterious encounters with the Orientals. America's Gerry Lindgren, the 18-year-old 10,000-meter specialist whose daily schedule calls for 30 miles of running, took a wrong turn and jogged into the sacrosanct park surrounding Emperor Hirohito's palace, where he soon found himself hemmed in by guards who did not speak English and who would not release him. A few attempts at sign language got him nowhere, but' then Lindgren lifted a shoe and showed the guards his spikes, whereupon he was permitted to go and sin no more.
The same day Hurdler Hayes Jones stood in front of an empty tray in the cafeteria and pronounced the only Japanese word he knew: "Hai," which means "yes."