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Another whose best races are planned for later, Olympic 800-meter champion Joaquim Cruz of Brazil, would have preferred not to run at all. He had been exhausted by a trip from Eugene, Ore. to Sao Paulo the week before. But he had promised to run the mile at UCLA against Steve Scott, who had narrowly beaten him in last year's meet, and his mother was visiting from Brazil, so he came up with a gutty, revelatory race.
Mark Fricker, the race rabbit, towed the field through quarters of 57.9 and 1:57.3, and Jack Buckner of Great Britain grabbed the lead with one lap to go. "I didn't know who this guy was who passed me," Cruz said later. He stayed in second down the backstretch, running tentatively, wondering how much the pace had taken out of him.
Then, with 250 yards to go, Scott came tearing past. "I wanted to get the jump on him," said Scott, "and I wanted to disrupt Cruz's rhythm." This he achieved by cutting in on him. By the middle of the turn, Scott had a five-yard lead and Cruz was wallowing, seeming strangely listless.
"He surprised me with that," said Cruz. "I thought he'd wait to the last 100. I stopped a little to think what to do now."
The answer must not have come to him until there were only 80 yards to run. Then he launched a frantic sprint.
"I thought I had it in the stretch," said Scott. "The crowd wasn't yelling like anyone was coming. I should have looked over my shoulder. I'm sure I could have found another gear. I was in a relaxed sprint. I could have gone to a clawing, groaning, maniac sprint."
Cruz's time was 3:53.19, .01 ahead of Scott. Cruz was given the male Athlete of the Meet award; Lewis's jumping was statistically superior, but Cruz's sprint lifted the heart. "I didn't know I'd catch him until I actually caught him," said Cruz with a grin of amazement, as if he were wondering a little, with everyone, what other miracles might be in there, what might come out when he is rested and at his peak.
"Hey, it is May," said Lewis, bolstering the theme of noble beginnings. "As time goes on, the variables [against, for example, his popping the world record] will lessen. Before the cramp, I felt good. I was jumping well enough to go farther than 28-9. I could run off the board better. I'll just keep jumping and jumping...."
He made it sound like rather common labor, which seems a switch for the man whose individuality has redefined the star system in track. ("Let's make this dramatic," he said to the UCLA trainer. "Put the ice on my leg while I'm talking to Marty Liquori on camera.") But the fact is, Lewis feels a lot younger and fresher than he expected to find himself at the advanced age of 23.