Drut did not quit training for other events, especially the pole vault. "The first time I held the pole," he says, "I felt a kind of pleasure like no other." He felt pain, too. "Our club was too poor to buy the new poles," he says, "so I had to use an old steel one like Don Bragg. The higher I went the harder I fell on our sand pit. I broke my collarbone and three times got bad cuts over the eye."
Nevertheless, by 1968 he was well-rounded enough to become French junior champion in not only the 110-meter hurdles but also the pole vault and decathlon. With a new fiber-glass pole in hand, he went on to clear 17'�", which gave him ideas of working for an Olympic gold medal from the ground up. No matter that he suffered some nasty spills. "The men who fall are those who take risks," Drut says, "and I love to take risks. That's how you get to be champion. I fall on the hurdles a lot, too. I'm a good faller, now."
Torn between his two specialties, in 1970 Drut went to Brescia, Italy, to confer with Alessandro Calvessi, a trainer known as "The Sorcerer" because of his reputed mystical gift for tuning brain to body. "In two days," says Drut, who still visits his Italian guru for spiritual overhauls, "I learned more than in 20 training sessions." And when Drut left, he vowed,' "Yes, now I will train seriously—hurdles it is."
The result was Drut's sterling showing in Munich. Off like a duck, he trailed Mil-burn by two meters at the fifth hurdle but then closed to within a meter to miss winning the gold medal by .1 second. He was timed in 13.34 to Milburn's 13.24. Drut claims that the only aspect of the race he remembers is the aftermath when, for one crystalline moment on the podium, he recalls seeing the French flag whipping bravely while the Stars and Stripes lay motionless against the pole. Returning to the Olympic Village, he celebrated by scampering up the steps of the French Pavilion on his hands.
Last July in Saint-Maur, France, in what
called a "blessed explosion," Drut equaled Milburn's manually timed world record of 13.1 seconds. Flopping down on the ground with a can of beer, Drut said, "In spite of this joy, I prefer a man-against-man victory to a record. That's the real joy. Beat the adversary!" A month later, after losing to his chief nemesis, Charles Foster, in Zurich, Drut beat both the main man and the clock in Berlin with a hand-timed new world record of 13 seconds flat. Trumpeted L'�quipe, "Guy Drut is the life-saver for drowning French sports."
Though Drut feels dragged under by such heavy talk, three or more days a week he goes to an office in the Matignon, where he shoulders an even weightier title: Conseiller Sportif Aupr�s du Premier Ministre—Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Sports. Appointed to the post last March, Drut is, among other things, campaigning for compulsory sports programs in high schools, the development of more coaches and gym teachers, state aid for the Olympic program and the revamping of the French Athletic Association. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, he says, "wants to improve sports through information and promotion. He wants to hear what the athletes are thinking. He has the same—boom! boom!—fighting spirit as me."
A member of the national council of Chirac's party, the Gaullist Union for the Defense of the Republic, Drut does not take kindly to criticism that his political career is misplaced opportunism. "I'm not concerned with those unintelligent, jealous people who dislike me because I don't share their opinions," he says. "Why shouldn't sportsmen take sides without having to justify themselves? An artist can have opinions and speak them. But with athletes people think, 'Run and shut up.' Among other things, I want to fight against this state of mind."
Drut himself clams up about his future plans, political or otherwise. He says, "My thoughts are stopping with the Games. I must be totally concentrated on the race. I won't act like a monk, but a month before the Games no one will see me on TV or on a political podium."
When Drut does reappear on center stage at Montreal, there should be no missing him. As Foster says, "Anytime Drut and I run together it's going to be smoking."
One thing is for certain: the lifesaver of French sport will not be floating—over the hurdles, that is. Win or lose, what it all comes down to is as simple as one, two, three, four, jump!