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In that meet, Bedford won the 5,000 in 13:17.2, lowering his European record by five seconds. Said Prefontaine when the news hit Oregon, "Yeah, but in Munich he'll be running the 10,000 first. He'll be a sitting duck in our race." The following day Bedford won the 10,000 in 27:52.8, and then sprinted an extra 350 meters.
"I'm much more relaxed this year," said Bedford. "I'm more confident. I've done less racing, and that makes me more hungry for competition. I still love to talk, but I've deliberately stayed away from the press. No more of that pressure from prerace publicity." Then he grinned. "Of course, if anyone is going to beat me at Munich, especially at 10,000 meters, they are going to have to run a world record." (Oh, oh, another one!)
Perhaps. And perhaps there are those who can do it. There is, for instance, besides Pre, Lasse Viren, the 23-year-old Finnish policeman who recently emerged from the ruck of European runners to win a 10,000 at Oslo in 27:52.4, the fastest time of the year. Earlier, Viren set Finnish and Nordic records in the 5,000 (13:19), the year's second fastest time behind Bedford's, and 3,000 (7:43.2) and may just have peaked his way into a gold mine. Or two.
For another, there is Yifter, the 25-year-old sergeant in Haile Selassie's Imperial Air Force who might do better if he ran his races carrying an adding machine. Last year in the U.S.- Africa meet at Durham, N.C., the skinny Ethiopian stunned Prefontaine with a furious kick with a lap and 150 yards to go. The only problem was that Yifter thought he had only 150 yards to go. In another 1971 race, Yifter defeated Kenya's Kip Keino in a 5,000 with a 13:52.6. While that clocking was far from sensational, this year he ran a 13:33.8 at Helsinki. That is 13 seconds faster than Kenya's other long-distance star, Ben Jipcho, has done this year. To Yifter's advantage, he is used to running 1� miles up in Ethiopia. "I may have trouble with the air at Munich," he supposedly said. "At sea level it is so thick."
But it is at sea level—or Munich's 1,700 feet—that Jim Ryun wants Keino. Ryun prepped for his 1,500 meter rematch with a mind-blowing 3:52.8 mile on July 29. No one clocked him at the 1,500-meter point, but his time would have been about 3:35.8. If there were still chinks in the 25-year-old Kansan's confidence before, there should be none now.
"My problems in Mexico City were much worse than any I faced this year," said Ryun, who finished a well-beaten second to Keino in '68. "There I had that awful 7,500-foot altitude as well as mononucleosis. All I had this year was a psychological problem, and that wasn't too hard to come back from."
While more than a little impressed by Ryun's return, Keino isn't about to concede the gold medal. The 32-year-old police inspector is still an extraordinary athlete in superb condition. Until Ryun's run at Toronto, Keino had the year's fastest 1,500, a 3:36.8, and he did it over a terrible track at Mombasa while suffering from an attack of malaria.
In 1968 the Kenyans won three gold, four silver and a bronze. Led again by Keino, they've come to Munich every bit as strong, if not stronger. Kenyans have a chance of placing in every race from 400 meters through 10,000. Besides Keino, the best prospect appears to be William Koskei, who should press Ralph Mann of the U.S. in the 400 intermediate hurdles. While qualifying on the track at Mombasa, which one runner described as 400 meters of cowpads, Koskei was clocked in 49.8. In May, at Nairobi, on a track which was scarcely better, he was caught in 49 flat, the fastest time this year until Mann (48.4) and Dick Bruggeman (48.6) bettered it at the U.S. Trials.
The Kenyans also are counting on Julius Sang, a 22-year-old student at North Carolina Central University who is listed as one of two non-Americans among the world's 12 top quarter-milers. His best so far is a 45.3, which should get him just close enough to get a good view of the backs of the U.S.'s John Smith, Wayne Collett and Vince Matthews. The West Germans think they have a 400-meter surprise in Karl Honz, an unknown who turned in a 44.7 recently at Munich. But if he manages it again, instead of a gold medal they should give him King Oenomaus' daughter Hippodamia, who was Pelops' prize.
(A note on the East Germans, who are out to prove to their Western countrymen that athletes under the Communist system—which means they draw a salary just like, if a bit lower than, Willie Mays or Joe Namath—are faster and stronger than those in the decadent West, even if they are all Germans. The only things really known about them are 1) they should win a lot of medals, 2) if they don't there will be hell to pay in East Berlin, and 3) if they do there will be hell to pay in West Berlin.)