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Kenny Moore
September 12, 1977
The first World Cup in track and field seemed a bit tarnished at first, with a number of top athletes absent from D�sseldorf, but after three days of sterling performances, heartbreak and controversy, the meet was, as a whole, a lustrous innovation
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September 12, 1977

The Cup Turned Into A Coup

The first World Cup in track and field seemed a bit tarnished at first, with a number of top athletes absent from D�sseldorf, but after three days of sterling performances, heartbreak and controversy, the meet was, as a whole, a lustrous innovation

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Vaulter Mike Tully of UCLA did more than he ever has, but emerged hungry. He cleared a personal best of 18'4�" to beat Wladislaw Kozakiewics of Poland for the first time in 11 tries this summer, then missed at a world-record 18'8�". An interesting blend of candor and fluff, Tully said, "My technique is very, very good, about the best in the world. Possibly within five years I can jump 19 feet, but I'm not serious about anything. It's not important for me to go to Moscow. I'm going into different areas. There is a chance I can model clothes, be on TV. If I don't make it at that, I'll be a vaulter somewhat longer."

The distances were a showcase for Miruts Yifter of Ethiopia, who had blown his share of chances over the years. After finishing third in the 1972 Olympic 10,000, Yifter, then 29, had been a favorite in the 5,000, but he reported to the wrong gate and, in a runner's nightmare, watched sobbing as Lasse Viren won. In 1976 he gave his age as 29 again but this time missed the Olympics completely because of the African boycott.

In D�sseldorf everything came together for him. "I prepared as for an Olympics," Yifter said. The 10,000 became a slow, jockeying race that let Yifter husband his incredible finishing speed (he has run the final 400 meters of a 10,000 in 49 seconds). Frank Shorter tried to draw the field out with a mile to go but was running with a badly strained right hamstring and finished sixth. "It was as if my whole body was held together by a single cotter pin," he said later. "And somebody pulled it." Shorter at his best couldn't have held Yifter, who won easily with a 54-second last lap.

"Did you see that?" asked 5,000-meter runner Nick Rose of Great Britain and Louisville. Rose has found that although he does not sprint with authority, he is capable of introducing killing bursts in the usually placid middle of races. In one 5,000 this summer, he ran a mid-race lap in 58.7 and was never headed as he went on to win in 13:16 from Yifter and 3:52 miler Marty Liquori. In D�sseldorf, Rose said simply, "If the pace is quick early on, there's no need to make a break, but if it lets these fellows breathe, then something has to be done."

The 5,000 was one event in which the front and back of the pack were not embarrassingly far apart. All eight men hung with the fast pace set by Karl Fleschen of West Germany. For the first six laps there was virtually no jockeying, simply an evenly spaced line of intent runners. Rose was hovering near the lead, Yifter hugging the curb behind Liquori. "The whole race I knew we were close to world-record pace," said Liquori later. "I haven't run this enough to really know what kilometer times mean, so before the race I wrote the world-record splits on the heel of my left hand." With five and a half laps to go, Rose took off, followed by the Australian, Fitzsimons, and then Yifter. Liquori surged, too, but not enough to close the gap separating him from the three leaders. "I thought Rose's bursts would take it out of everyone who went with him," Liquori said. "I paced myself to what I thought would be the world record and took a calculated risk that I'd be back up there."

Rose slowed, and Fitzsimons went into the lead. Rose charged down the back-stretch again, easing with three laps to go, then blasting out again, Yifter and Fitzsimons with him. Liquori stayed 20 meters back. With 600 meters to run, Liquori closed to 10 meters, then five. Into the last lap he regained contact.

"I could see the chance of boxing Yifter for a second," he said. "I wanted to get the jump down the backstretch. I got there about 30 yards too late." As if he could sense the looming Liquori, Yifter exploded past Rose and blew out to a five-meter lead again, accelerating even more in the last curve. Liquori, with a drive reminiscent of his great finishes against Jim Ryun, drew to within a meter with 100 to run. Then his long chase finally got to him, and he could gain no more.

Yifter won in 13:13.8. His last lap was 53.8. Liquori, second, was timed in 13:15.1, breaking his own American record. It was an enthralling event and seemed to assure the points title for the U.S. men's team, which with Arnie Robinson's victory in the long jump (26'10�") and Clancy Edwards' in the 200 (20:17), had won six of 19 men's events. Only the 4 x 400 relay remained, and it was an event in which the U.S. team of Stan Vinson, Tom Andrews, Moses and Maxie Parks was favored. It was not to be, however. Parks, running anchor, took the baton with a five-meter lead and seemed comfortably ahead of West Germany's Bernd Herrmann when suddenly, on the backstretch, he pulled up, lurched to the side of the track and toppled over in agony with a hamstring pull in his right leg. Herrmann went on to win the race, with East Germany taking five points for its fourth-place finish, giving the GDR the team championship by seven over the U.S.

In the women's competition, Poland's Irena Szewinska, who had won the 200 on Friday, joined Juantorena and Yifter as a double winner on Sunday by taking the 400 in 49.52, .23 off her world record set at the Montreal Olympics. Two more victories for the European women's team ( Grete Waitz of Norway in the 3,000 and a 4 x 100 relay triumph), were enough to overcome East Germany 107-102.

Those final bursts of excitement revealed international competition at its best. Or perhaps Liquori did that when he tore away from reporters to get on the field for the final athletes' parade. "Quit?" he called back in response to their eternal question. "Retire? Hell, next year I'm going to really train." For the record, Liquori will be 34 in 1983 when the next World Cup is likely to be held. Yifter will be 29, of course.

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