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NOT ON THE UP AND UP
Kenny Moore
October 27, 1975
Mexico's Pan-American Games were marked by biased officiating and hostility toward the U.S. contingent
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October 27, 1975

Not On The Up And Up

Mexico's Pan-American Games were marked by biased officiating and hostility toward the U.S. contingent

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Each U.S. winner was subject to prolonged whistling on the victory stand. Kathy Weston, a cherubic 17-year-old from Reno, led all the way in the women's 800, a race distinguished by her calm in meeting the late challenge of the defending champion, Abby Hoffman of Canada. During the medal ceremony she stood motionless amid the jeers, characteristically serene. Hoffman, who has run in three Olympics, was fuming. She said later, "Kathy is as innocuous as human beings come. She deserved better." Weston spoke of her father, a telephone company engineer who had polio when young. Though he raised four sons he shied from sports until Kathy began running in junior high school. "Now it's his hobby as much as mine," she said. "He runs with me, lifts weights, and has lost 100 pounds. So on the victory stand it was nice to think of him watching on TV."

Uncontrolled crowds turned the 20-km walk into a nightmare. The two Mexican walkers, Daniel Bautista and Domingo Colin, were the class of the field and moved quickly ahead. At once the crowds lining the course near the university surged in behind the leaders and parted only grudgingly, as do the taxis on the Reforma, for the rest. Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Larry Young said, "In some places hundreds of people were blocking the way. The screaming was awful." Todd Scully, in fifth, was struck and spat upon. "I think the U.S. ought to pull out of the Pan-Am Games if all we're going to get is this hostility," said Young. Later, Professor Jorges Molinas Celis, the track and field director, apologized to the U.S. coaches, blaming the Mexico City communist party for the discourtesy. The marathon course, he promised, would be secured by troops.

In the high jump, AAU champion Tom Woods won easily at 7'3", then had the bar set at 7'4�"—one centimeter higher than Dick Fosbury's stadium and Olympic record. As do many high jumpers, Woods stood gathering himself for as much as a minute before each attempt. The Latin crowd seemed unable to deal with these moments of quietude, filling them with rising catcalls, making a travesty of the event with behavior that seemed the more irrational because it could not change its outcome. "Hell," Woods said later, "I kept going after I had won as much for the crowd as anything." He missed his first two tries badly. As he began the third, the officials intervened with trumpets and the medal ceremony for the pentathlon. Finally, after another whistle-scarred approach, he sailed over.

"Listen, you think this crowd was bad, you should have been at the U.S.- Mexico basketball game," Woods said. "We won 99-70, but the abuse was so awful that if I'd been the coach, I'd have pulled the team off. I thought, O.K., this is the way it's going to be when I jump. There was no way it was going to intimidate me."

It certainly didn't, yet Woods walked from the stadium depressed and thoughtful. "Athlete versus athlete with no distractions seems to me the ideal of sport. Private meets don't have all the political and nationalistic interference that this one has. The Olympics is still the ultimate thing in my life, so I feel that all of this grandeur and expense-should be for the athletes. But it's slipping away. It's for the officials, for the spectators to satisfy whatever weird cravings drive them to act like this. It just seems to me that these enormous productions might be dying under their own weight."

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