" Willie Smith," Juantorena repeated musingly.
He was asked if there were any in that field that he feared. Juantorena lifted his eyebrows and smiled at such a thought. "In the 400 I don't fear anyone in the world," he said. "If I walked out onto a track and saw a lion, I might have fear. But a human like me? With only two legs? No fear."
As 12,862 fans jammed Drake Stadium for Sunday's meet, the day began windy and grayish, with a few low-hanging clouds. "No way it will rain today," predicted a veteran Southern California track nut and amateur meteorologist. "But it's going to be a dark day for the Cubans. This isn't Montreal."
As it turned out, he was correct. First up for the Cubans was Grisel Machado in the 100-meter women's hurdles, in which she has been clocked in 13.24. Running in a white bandanna, Machado broke on top, as the Cubans would all day, but she was quickly overtaken by Deby LaPlante, the American record holder, who won in 13.15. Machado finished third with a time of 13.73.
Ten minutes later it was Casa�as' turn to test himself against Nehemiah and Foster. "I think there will be a world record today," the Cuban flatly predicted.
Nehemiah, poised and ready, was also thinking that a world record was not beyond reach, although earlier in the week he had reflected, "Everyone is expecting a record, but it might be more of a strategic race, more of a psych game—the U.S. runners against the Cuban."
Employing a strategy of his own, Casa�as anticipated the gun and false-started. Under the international rules, one more false start and the Cuban would be disqualified. On the second start, Casa�as shot out of the blocks, seemingly a split second before the gun. There was no recall. "I was stunned; I was behind," Nehemiah said later. "I hesitated, thinking it was another false start. But he kept going, so I went after him."
Angered by the lack of recall, Foster, too, gave chase, hardly slowing as he slammed into the second hurdle. But the rhythm of precise strides this event demands had been upset. He cleared the third hurdle, then midway to the fourth he reached out, knowing he would never clear it. Foster hit the barrier solidly, fell to the track, and there he stayed. He had injured a hamstring.
At the sixth of the 10 hurdles, Nehemiah caught Casa�as, passed him and blazed across the finish line in a stunning 13 seconds flat. Casa�as was two yards back in 13.23. A moment later Nehemiah was congratulating the Cuban for running a fine race. He stuck out his right hand; Casa�as hesitated. Then they shook hands.
After consoling Foster, Nehemiah said, "When we got here today, I felt the guy who won it would break the record, or be close to it. It was a very competitive race. The time didn't surprise me. Still, I think I would have been a little bit faster if I had gone out with the gun. I could have relaxed if I had a good start. I would have had a 12.7 or 12.8."