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Joe Jares
January 26, 1976
Geoff Capes is hardly favored to win in the Olympics—who ever heard of a good English shotputter?—but the burly policeman's performance last week in Los Angeles indicates that he may well cop a medal
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January 26, 1976

A Long Shot Right On Target

Geoff Capes is hardly favored to win in the Olympics—who ever heard of a good English shotputter?—but the burly policeman's performance last week in Los Angeles indicates that he may well cop a medal

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Dwight Stones took the high jump at 7'2", but pole vaulter Dan Ripley, who had set an indoor record of 18'�" the week before, could do only 17'6" and finished second to Yuri Isakov of the Soviet Union, who cleared the same height with fewer misses. Valery Borzov, winner of the 100 and 200 meters at Munich four years ago, was also competing on the second leg of a U.S. tour. He looked a bit paunchy and had injured a muscle in his left calf a few nights earlier in Mobile, Ala. where he finished fifth, so the experts thought he had only a flickering candle's chance in a Siberian snowstorm to stay alive against 18-year-old Houston McTear, co-holder of the world record in the 100-yard dash. The experts were right.

In the 50-yard dash McTear, representing the Northwest Florida Track Club, did not seem bothered when his rivals were guilty of four false starts. On try No. 5 he exploded out of the blocks, accelerated like a dragster and easily held the lead to win in 5.1, one-tenth over the world indoor record. Borzov was second in 5.3 and Jamaica's Don Quarrie third in 5.4. Steve Williams, the early favorite in the 100 at Montreal, scratched because of an injured toe.

McTear took the 60 just as easily, beating Quarrie—Borzov scratched—and was voted Athlete of the Meet, but he did not stick around for the presentation of his TV set. Showing a few tricky moves he may use as a college running back, he disappeared from the arena to telephone his father, who had undergone brain surgery two weeks before.

"I think he is going to be the best sprinter in history," said his coach, Will Willoughby. "He came here expecting to win both races, and I thought he would, too. He's right where I want him right now. He's in good shape, but he's not in great shape.

"His dad will never work again and he has seven brothers and sisters. They need financial help and are getting by mostly through me. If he could get a good pro track offer, I'd advise him to take it right now. His family needs the money desperately."

Borzov, through an interpreter, said he was unconcerned about the loss because he is using the indoor season merely for training. " McTear is the best in the short sprints in the United States," he said. "His start is very good, but that is not the most important factor in the 100. Charles Greene, Herb Washington and Mel Pender have very fast starts, too—I would say about as good as his. However, I see no reason why he should not be great at 100 meters."

Next to McTear's 5.1 in the 50, perhaps the most impressive mark in the meet was Rick Wohlhuter's 1:49.2 in the 880, a race in which he handily whipped Kenya's Mike Boit, considered by some the finest 800-meter runner in the world. Wohlhuter, an insurance salesman in Chicago, was the Sullivan Award winner in 1974, when he was undefeated in the 880 and set a world record, but he was definitely beatable last year. One of the reasons, he thinks, is that he fooled around too much with the mile. This year with Montreal in mind, he is going to be almost exclusively an 800-880 man.

Capes has made a similar decision regarding the shot and the discus. In the 1974 Commonwealth trials he threw the discus 191'8", but has not tried it often since. He decided to forget versatility and concentrate his considerable powers on propelling the 16-pound shot farther than any Britisher before him. It should help him a great deal to hang around for a while in San Jose, where there are more 60-foot shotputters courting hernias than in all the British Isles, and maybe all the English-speaking world outside the United States.

One problem for Capes in L.A., besides jet lag, was that the oversize U.S. indoor shot felt like a bowling ball in his paw. It is curious that both the British golf ball and the indoor shot are smaller than the U.S. versions.

"The U.S. shot is about an inch and a half more in diameter," said Capes. "And although I have big hands, I had difficulty in holding it. It took all week to get the feel of the thing. It's very awkward. I've got a very long neck, too, which makes using a bigger shot even more difficult."

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