another thing that bothers Moses.
"A lot of
people make a lot of money off track, but it's not the U.S. athletes," he
says, echoing a shopworn amateur's lament. "I went completely broke
training for the '76 Olympics. I had to beg gas money just so I could get to
the track. And it's like that for a lot of us. Arnie Robinson, the gold-medal
winner in the long jump, worked on a garbage truck while training. James Butts,
who won the silver medal in the triple jump, had to work two full-time jobs
because his mother was sick. The only time he could train was at 5 a.m. Those
things aren't right. Track athletes should be able to train with dignity.
to get rich. But realistically, well, I don't see why I shouldn't have a
$400,000 contract to run in 20 meets—the kind of money Julius Erving gets. I
mean, this may be the only thing I can do well in my whole life."
that with this money talk, he's pushing logic to its irrational end. But he
enjoys the game. With Robinson, he has sent out brochures to 120 U.S.
businesses asking for their sponsorship of Olympic-caliber athletes. Only one
source of discontent, though, is far simpler than the pursuit of money or what
he calls the "whore-pimp concept" of amateur athletics: he is just too
good. He has no competition. He is bored. He does make it look too easy. Since
the Olympics, he has lost only once. He wins some races by 20 meters.
"I don't even
think about winning anymore," he says with a shrug. "When I was in
Europe last summer, I was racing against the same guys again and again. After a
while I knew they weren't going to break 49 seconds. And I have to consciously
slow down to run over 49. What can I say?"
"He's one of
a kind," says James King, the seventh-ranked intermediate hurdler in the
U.S. and a man clearly in awe of Moses. "He can't get pushed. And that's
very tough for anybody." Indeed, in each of his world-record races, Moses
has run virtually alone, something few record holders in any event can
hurdles has never been a top-billed event—another part of Moses' recognition
problem. People still view the race as something of a sideshow—a bastardization
of two "normal" races, the 110-meter highs and the 400-meter dash.
Great athletes have rarely flocked to the race. In A World History of Track and
Field Athletics, 1864-1964, R. L. Quercetani points out that early runners
avoided the event as being "too uncomfortable and fatiguing, if not
altogether lethal ('the man-killer event')." And now with Moses' prolonged
dominance, the race suffers from a lack of competitiveness. Next week at the
AAU championships Moses will face a field in which no runner has come within
1:03 seconds of his world record. "That's why the intermediates are always
the first event," he says. "So they can get the hurdles off the track
and start the meet."
If that sounds a
bit peevish coming from a healthy, talented 23-year-old who has scarcely known
defeat, Moses would like the public to know he's not really bitter. "I
realize that whenever I bitch about something, it only compounds the
problem," he says. "What I say reads bitter, I guess, but it doesn't
sound bitter. The feeling's not there. If people heard me talk they'd know what
At 8:30 one
recent Thursday morning, the track at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut,
Calif., the site of the AAU championships, is vacant except for a single
long-limbed figure performing strange hopping exercises. Moses has no coach, no
running partners, no trainer, no wife, no fan club, no pushy girl friends or
relatives. "I don't need anybody," he says. He devises his own
workouts, and lately he has added some stretching moves taken from various
Oriental martial-arts disciplines. The hops, he explains, keep his knees