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Without peer with a spear
Kenny Moore
May 23, 1983
Unheralded Tom Petranoff shattered the world javelin record by 9'10"
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May 23, 1983

Without Peer With A Spear

Unheralded Tom Petranoff shattered the world javelin record by 9'10"

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"You look bigger," said an admiring voice in the crowd. Wilkins' expression eloquently said, ah, how they forget.

"No, still 255," he said. "I've been unhappy with my throwing for two years. I tried to quit after 1980, but something inside me still wants me to do this. I went through a year [1981] when my best was 206 and Ben Plucknett did 237. Now I'm strong, and the technique is coming, and I just have to remember who I am."

No man can remember ruling any track event as Edwin Corley Moses has the 400-meter hurdles. He won the 1976 Olympic final when he was 20, in a then-record 47.64. He cut the mark to 47.13 in 1980. More compelling to the popular imagination is his feat of having won his last 72 races in a row, a streak dating back to 1977.

But when the 1982 spring campaign began, Moses wasn't ready. "I'd had pneumonia in 1980, and the infection was still lingering," he said last week. "The doctors said if I trained hard before I got healthy, I risked scarring my lungs."

So he waited, and married Myrella Bordt, a West German artist well worth letting the rest of the world go by for. When he wasn't ready by the nationals in June, he took the whole year off. "I've always gone into my races more thoroughly prepared than anyone else," he said. "That's policy. The streak was not the reason for that. The streak was a result of that. My concern was not to protect the streak but to protect my body."

He began again last November, fully healthy. First there was cross-country and Nautilus work, and then interval training that a half-miler would do. "This is not a speed event," he firmly maintains. "It's stamina. The 400 hurdles hurt, and they hurt me, too. All this training is for one thing, the last 100 meters."

In Modesto, he was nervous, setting his blocks wrong and committing a false start. But soon the field was away cleanly. Moses worked the first 200 hard, getting his customary 13 steps between hurdles despite a slight head wind. "I couldn't put the race together in my head beforehand," he would say. "I couldn't even imagine how it would feel. But when I got out there, it all came back."

Yet Andre Phillips was right with him, and last year's NCAA and TAC champion, David Patrick, was only a yard back. "The pressure of the streak," Moses would say, "comes because the other guys are desperate to beat me every time out. It's hard to always be No. 2 or 3 or 4...uh, I imagine."

For Moses, it's simply unacceptable. He charged into the turn as the effort of fighting the wind began to tell on the rest of the field, and halfway down the stretch he had opened a lead of five yards. He won, relaxing, in 49.02 to Patrick's 49.52. Phillips faded to 50.15 in fourth.

Moses bent, hands on knees, for many seconds before he could speak. "That was hard," he said. "The time doesn't reflect the effort." After a slow walk to his sweats, he continued, "The first race is vital, psychologically...." Then Myrella got to him with a hug of relief, and he finally showed his wonderful, gap-toothed smile. "I'm thankful," he said. "Hey, it feels like the good old days."

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