Taylor slipped out of his sweats, put on his spikes, did two knee bends, got into the blocks and came in second to Russia's Valeriy Borzov, the same order in which they finished in the final. Wright, in tears, made an informal appeal to get Hart and Robinson into another heat if there was an opening—which there wasn't—on the grounds that their mythical bus had been delayed in traffic. No chance.
Still crying, Wright tried to find the words to apologize to Hart and Robinson. "It's my fault," he said. "It's all my fault. God, it's my fault."
Tears streaming freely, Hart shook his head. "Forget it, Stan," he said. "It's done." Later the 24-year-old Hart, who is just a few hours away from his B.A. in physical education at Cal, bemoaned his fate. "This is the first time I depended on anyone to get me to a track meet on time," he said, "but it's the Olympics, and I felt I didn't have to worry about such details. I was here to run."
In truth the fault lay with team officials, from USOC President Clifford Buck, who denies it, to Head Track Coach Bill Bowerman, who doesn't ("If you want to say Bill Bowerman blew it," Bowerman said at a press conference, "go ahead"), and on down. "Kee-rist," said quarter-miler John Smith, "if everybody is going to blast Stan, well, the whole staff should apologize to the whole team for not making sure Stan knew the right time. Now, Stan is not my kind of black dude because he is from the old country, but the athletes don't blame just him. We blame everybody."
While others were casting stones and trying not to be hit by too many, Dave Wottle had his own problems. He had been married before leaving for the Olympics and had brought his bride with him, to the dismay of Bowerman, who seemed convinced that Wottle's chances for a medal were gone. The runner was more worried about his aching knees. After limping back from the futile chase for the sprinters, he came from far behind to qualify in his 800 heat, and the next day squeezed through on the inside to win his semifinal. On Saturday, in the final, he went against the world's best and immediately began to play catch-up, falling well behind the pack on the first lap. "I hadn't planned on being up front," he explained. Up front instead were the Kenyans, Mike Boit and Robert Ouko, followed by the favorite, Russia's Yevgeny Arzhanov. With 300 meters to go the Russian kicked into the lead, and Wottle, finally beginning to move, made his way into fourth place on the last turn. He began his sprint with hopes of finishing third but did not pass his first Kenyan, Ouko, until 30 meters from the finish.
"Then I began running for the silver," Wottle said. "I never thought I'd win. I thought Arzhanov would. But when I saw him letting up with 20 yards to go, I knew I'd win." He passed Boit and nipped the tumbling Russian at the finish by the length of the bill of his golf cap. Both were timed in 1:45.9. Recognizing the stress Wottle felt, what with a gold medal and a new wife, surely his ROTC colonel, whom Wottle was afraid was watching on TV, will forgive his covered head during The Star-Spangled Banner. Particularly if he does well this week in the 1,500, too.
Under a somewhat different stress was Seagren, whose controversial green Catapoles were banned by the International Amateur Athletic Federation as the Olympics began. Seagren felt the conventional poles he had with him were too stiff to use because of the strong headwind during the competition, and he was given a pole by Adrian Paulen, an IAAF official from The Netherlands. Angrily, Seagren said, "The pole is no good. They walked up and handed it to me and said this is what you'll use. Why didn't they hand everybody a new pole and make it even?"
Late in the final, with nobody left in the competition but Wolfgang Nordwig of East Germany, Seagren missed twice at 17' 8�" before making it and then failed on all three tries at 17' 10�". Nordwig went over that height on his first try, then made 18'�". For the first time in Olympic history the U.S. had lost in the vault. Seagren said later he should have saved his strength by passing at 17' 10�" and concentrating his efforts at 18'�".
"I was tired, and I should have passed in order to rest," he said, "but I was afraid of that strange pole. When I missed the first try at 17' 10�", I knew I was done. I was exhausted." After his final miss he turned and threw the pole at Paulen. "Why not?" Seagren fired back at East German writers who questioned the gesture. "That's the pole he chose for me to jump with, and I didn't want it anymore. So I gave it back."
Failure also came to tiny Cathy Rigby, America's premier gymnast, who was totally eclipsed by Russia's even more diminutive Olga Korbut. Korbut's triumph-failure-triumph pattern that resulted in two gold medals made a great show, even putting Japan's superlative male gymnasts in the background.