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SAVED BY A VERY FAST WOTTLE
Pat Putnam
September 11, 1972
A tall young Ohioan wearing a golf cap beat the world's best in a dramatic 800-meter run to salvage something for U.S. track forces, whose first-week fortunes had been sinking sadly at the Olympic Games
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September 11, 1972

Saved By A Very Fast Wottle

A tall young Ohioan wearing a golf cap beat the world's best in a dramatic 800-meter run to salvage something for U.S. track forces, whose first-week fortunes had been sinking sadly at the Olympic Games

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It could have been worse. Stan Wright could have been coaching Mark Spitz or managing the American wrestlers, who won an unexpected six medals in the freestyle competition—three golds, two silvers and a bronze. The way mismanagement has been meshing with misfortune, that may be more gold than the whole jittery and bitter U.S. track team carries away from Munich.

Like what else can happen? Our two best sprinters ran their 100-meter second round heats in a TV booth. At the last second Bob Seagren was destroyed when his vaulting pole was declared illegal. He was handed a strange stick and finished second and mad. Ralph Mann ran a powerful race in the 400-meter hurdles but came in behind Uganda's John Akii-Bua, one of 43 children, who set a new world record of 47.8. Since Al Oerter stayed home for the first time in five Olympiads, Ludvik Danek, the 35-year-old Czechoslovakian discus veteran, finally won the gold. America's Jay Silvester had to be content with the silver.

Then, after Dave Wottle, an ROTC student from Bowling Green University, won the 800, our only gold medal in track and field last week, he forgot to take off his distinctive cap while they played the national anthem.

"Oh, Lord!" moaned Wottle. "I've never been so embarrassed in my life." He's embarrassed and he won. Just think how the American officials felt when they discovered that for some incomprehensible reason they were operating from an unofficial 18-months-old schedule, a blunder that cost Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, a couple of world-record-holding 9.9 sprinters, any chance at any medal in the 100.

For those who may have been asleep since last Thursday, U.S. sprint coach Stan Wright—head track coach at Sacramento State who also handled the U.S. sprinters at Mexico City—says he was never told that the Germans had revised a preliminary schedule issued early last year. It is not clear how all the other nations in the Olympics found out about it. Wright's archaic schedule called for the second-round heats to be run after the 10,000 heats, which began at 5:30 Thursday evening. The updated version, which had been published in all the Olympic handouts as well as in every available English-language newspaper, switched the events and moved the second round up to 4:15 p.m.

Coming back from their morning preliminary heats and believing they were not going to run until three hours later than actually scheduled, Hart, Robinson and the third U.S. dashman, Robert Taylor, roamed the Olympic Village. Around noon Alex Woodley, the coach of the Philadelphia Pioneer Track Club who is helping the sprinters from Trinidad, noticed Robinson putting away a big meal in the cafeteria.

"Hey, man, isn't that a little heavy before a race?" Woodley asked.

"No, I got time. We don't run until around seven," said Robinson.

Woodley frowned. "Are you sure? I think you run at 4:15."

"Nope. The coach told us around seven, maybe 6:30."

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