- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
They said yes, they were Russian.
"No kidding...? Well, let's buy you all drinks and talk about this." An hour later the loggers were teaching the Soviets pool and asking to be photographed with them. "They're people just the same as us" was the consensus in the tavern. It was even noted that several Soviet athletes sneaked cigarettes when Tchistiakov wasn't looking.
As the competitors gathered for the Portland meet, word came from New Zealand that Mary Decker, who has been living and training in Eugene since last spring, had broken the women's world record for the mile with a 4:21.7. For a few, knowing that Decker has her heart set on breaking the Eastern European domination of the middle distances and knowing that if the Olympics are divided she will not get her chance, even this joyous news seemed undercut.
The Portland competition was spotty, and the format included a number of closed races in a four-way meet between Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State, but the Soviet athletes were successful against modest opposition. Katerina Smirnova won both the women's high jump at 5'10" and the 60-yard hurdles in 7.9. Nikolai Chernyetskiy was first in the 500 in 58.0, and Vladamir Murakiev won the men's 60 in 6.3. Hurdler Tatyana Anisimova was fourth in the 60-yard dash won by Andrea Lynch Saunders in 7.0. The Soviet interpreter, Nelly Argayan, said that after a week of "always the same questions, political questions," the U.S.S.R. athletes were relieved to be in action, "and happy to win, too." It seemed the sort of relief that is to be denied Americans for some time.
While the meet was in progress, reports came from Colorado Springs of the USOC decision to request that the IOC move, postpone or cancel the Moscow Games. Asked for his response, the Soviet manager, David Pertenava, said, "The IOC gave the Games to Moscow. In Moscow they will be. In our opinion, the Americans will be there." Then his party hurried off into a bitter, windy night, leaving Jacek Wszola, the Olympic high-jump champion from Poland, to win the outstanding performer award for his meet-record leap of 7'4¼". Taylor won the pole vault at 17 feet from two of Wszola's countrymen, Tadeusz Slusarski and Wojciech Buciarski. Asked the inevitable, Slusarski said only, "Politics are politics. I like sports."
Buciarski, gregarious and an experienced hand on the U.S. indoor circuit, was asked his opinion on the boycott by Taylor and a friend of Taylor's.
"I'm sorry. I can't..." Buciarski began, as Taylor watched his eyes. "Maybe you don't understand," he continued, and his eyes seemed filled with supplication, "but I can't say anything."
Taylor squeezed Buciarski's shoulder and turned away. "And maybe I do understand," he said softly, shaken.
Thus, at this juncture in the athletes' tortuous journey, it seems that so long as authoritarian governments so menace the individual—be he a Sakharov or a Buciarski—that he cannot even share in the sadness of a friend, there is very good reason to cast aside the old and look to a better Olympics.