As a lens can
scorch a page with sunlight, so the Olympics focus the world's good wishes into
killing pressure. Experienced competitors like George Woods, twice a silver
medalist in the shot, speak of the mysterious discoveries occasioned by Olympic
stress: "It is amazing how you can have performed this relatively simple
set of movements hundreds of thousands of times, and you get to the Olympics
and it feels wrong." There is amusement in Woods' tone, a wry acceptance
that perhaps explains why he is back for a third try. "In the Olympics, in
this event, it's not who rises to the occasion the best, but who crumbles the
least. It's the guy who stands up under the weight of it."
Woods bases his
predictions for Montreal upon this hard reality. "The man who relies on raw
strength, not intricate technique, will drop less in the pressure of the Games.
If you're nervous, you can't fix things. The East Germans—and the Soviets'
Alexander Baryshnikov [who set a world record of 72'2�" last week]—all have
a lot of technique that really has to click. So does Al Feuerbach. I pick the
toughest guy in any competition and concentrate on beating him. In Montreal
I'll be concentrating on Geoff Capes of Great Britain. He's big [6'6",
310], strong, with leverage. In fact, he's similar to Wladyslaw Komar of Poland
whom nobody expected to do much in 1972. Komar won, and the lesson is keep your
eye on these big strong guys."
Woods is one of
the American men who are serious contenders for gold medals in 16 of the 23
track and field events. Especially improved are those in the field; there are
potential U.S. winners in the discus, pole vault, high jump and shotput, all
events won by Eastern Europeans in 1972, as well as in the long jump where
Arnie Robinson could well replace Randy Williams as the gold medalist. Mac
Wilkins, the new world record holder in the discus (232'6") has won 16 of
17 meets this year, losing only to Wolfgang Schmidt of East Germany, who no
doubt will mention that signal occasion when Wilkins steps into the ring in
Montreal. Earl Bell and Dave Roberts genteelly have exchanged poles and the
vault record ( Roberts has it now, at 18'8�") and excel under pressure.
They'll have to, because they face the vaulting Poles, Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz
and Tadeusz Slusarski, both of whom cleared 18'5�" this year.
Dwight Stones is
a sound choice in the high jump, endangered as much by teammate Bill
Jankunis—who beat him in the Trials with a 7'5�"—as by Sergey Senyukov of
the Soviet Union (7'5") and two Canadian 7'4�" jumpers with up and down
names, Greg Joy and Robert Forget.
In the decathlon,
Bruce Jenner will surely join in a glorious struggle with Russia's Nikolay
Avilov, with a world record certain to go to the victor. And the young American
sprinters, Harvey Glance and Millard Hampton, eager and loose, may well
surprise Valery Borzov, although Jamaica's Don Quarrie is another matter.
hurdles is an event which has seen remarkable performances in the last two
Olympics—and it's due for another. Uganda's John Akii-Bua defends the title he
won in Munich with a world record 47.82, but the U.S. sends a man of staggering
talent. Edwin Moses, a junior at Morehouse in Atlanta, in his first serious
year at the event, has become the only man in recent times to keep 13 strides
between hurdles the whole way. When he reaches the second turn and everyone
else changes to 14 or 15, Moses rolls on by. He has already set an American
record of 48.30.
have chances in the sprints with Brenda Morehead and young Chandra
Cheeseborough, and placid Kathy Schmidt is the co-favorite in the javelin with
East Germany's Ruth Fuchs. But when it comes to the heavier implements, this
country must experience a profound change in its view of what constitutes
femininity before its women can become truly competitive. Faina Myelnik of the
U.S.S.R. has thrown the discus a world record 231'3" this year. The
American best is 185'3". Ivanka Khristova of Bulgaria has put the shot
71'9�" and will duel with East Germany's Marianne Adam (71'1�"). The
American record is 56'7". Similarly, Eastern Europe's female runners have
increased their margins of superiority. Tatyana Kazankina of Russia is fresh
from becoming the first woman under four minutes in the 1,500 (her 3:56.0 is
the equivalent of a 4:15 mile) and teammate Valentina Gerasimova has a second
and a half on the world in the 800 with her 1:56.0.
In the jumps, two
Americans have hopes. Kathy McMillan stands third in the world this year with
her 22'3" but is capable of popping a 23-footer. East German Sigrun Siegl's
new world record is 22'11�". High jumper Joni Huntley, a superb performer
in major competition, has a best of 6'2�". East German Rosie Ackermann has
done 6'5". That, too, is the world record.
The best American
middle distance runner is Rick Wohlhuter, a precise and careful man, thorough
in his Olympic planning, who will double in the 800 and the 1,500. The 800, his
best event, is the shortest race in which tactics are a factor, so Wohlhuter
has a book on his main challengers. "Luciano Susanj of Yugoslavia and Ivo
Van Damme of Belgium both close quickly with 200 or less to go," he says.
"It's plain strategy. Mike Boit of Kenya...I'm not so sure he has a
strategy." Generally, the leggy, gap-toothed African sets a searing pace.
"I will tend to follow that," says Wohlhuter, "but move earlier
than Susanj or Van Damme, relying more on strength than speed."
Wohlhuter is also
the world record holder for the kilometer (2:13.9), and, indeed, it seems his
ideal distance is somewhere between 800 and 1,500 meters, perhaps
three-quarters of a mile. "I thought I was running a record three-quarters
in the Trials," he says, recalling that remarkable 1,500 which saw Ohio
State's crazy-brave Tom Byers drive through the first half mile in 1:51.3 with
Oregon's Matt Centrowitz and Wohlhuter giving chase in 1:52.8 and 1:52.9. When
Byers, discovering he was not yet Filbert Bayi, began to stagger, Centrowitz
took over through three quarters in 2:52.3, world record pace with only 300
meters to run. "The clock didn't make much sense to me," said
Centrowitz later. "I'd never seen those numbers before." Yet Wohlhuter
won in 3:36.5, solid time but more than four seconds above Bayi's world record
of 3:32.2. "We didn't finish very strong," he said afterward, "but
in the Olympics you give it everything you've got.