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Jones tore through the first 400 in 50.20, leading Stanley Redwine and Johnny Gray narrowly, with Paige sixth and Robinson last. Down the back-stretch, where injudicious pacesetters falter, Jones kept right on driving. He was for real. He repelled an attempt to pass by Redwine. Gray kept close, keying on Jones.
In fourth was John Marshall. He is coached in the middle distances at Villanova by Paige, who now ran a yard behind him, and wide, ready to kick. Robinson, too, was closing up. Into the stretch Jones led by two yards, his arms still pumping as smoothly as a quarter-miler's. Gray ran at him all the way to the line. Redwine faded and Paige, though thrashing low with his powerful arms, could go no faster. Thus the race for the last spot was between Marshall and the desperately charging Robinson, who had been seven yards back with 100 to go. "I kept expecting them to come back to me," he would say. "The new guys are the ones that will get you. You never know what they're going to do."
The toughest new guy, Jones, just won, his wire-to-wire resolve breaking Rick Wohlhuter's 10-year-old American record of 1:43.91 with a 1:43.74. Gray got so close by the end that he was given the same time. Marshall, knowing Robinson was beside him, wild to make it ("Whatever it would take, I was going to do"), dived at the line (he would have a bruised knee and elbow and chest) and created what almost all observers watching the replay thought was a dead heat for third, a spot where ties aren't allowed. Both their times were 1:43.92. "I thought I made it," said Robinson while they waited for the photo to be examined. "He thought he made it. Actually it was more hopin'. You be hopin' you won."
The question asked about every shockingly young athlete who makes the team is: Will he be content with that—or will he be hungry in the Games? You can almost hear Jones's stomach growling. "Being unknown was to my advantage here," he said, looking ahead craftily almost before he had his breath back. "I believe I can break 1:43. I'd like to go in as the underdog again."
That is a luxury that is long past for Carl Lewis. For him, the pressure of these trials was of a different order. The Olympics are not some grand, vague dream for Lewis. They stand in splendid detail in his imagination, probably encompassing a pair or more of world records. But he's a practical man. The whole shining edifice would evaporate if he didn't produce superior performances in all his events here. During the trials he was brisk, terse and brilliant.
After winning the 100 in 10.06 against a wind, he qualified for the long-jump final, then began the first two rounds of the 200. In the quarterfinal, against the expectations of all who saw him throw away a world record by raising his arms in celebration in last year's TAC 200 (his 19.75 there is the American record, and the fastest ever run at low altitude, but by running the whole race he would have broken Pietro Mennea's world record of 19.72), Lewis ran the turn hard, relaxed, letting himself roll in the stretch, and celebrated only after crossing the line. He was clocked in 19.84, an astounding time for a preliminary, and the fourth-fastest ever.
He was shocked. "He did not, repeat not, know he was running that fast," said a jolted Tom Tellez, who coaches the University of Houston as well as Lewis. It was clear that Lewis, despite all his high-visibility appearances in this official Olympic promotional season (he was on the cover of Gentlemen's Quarterly this month), despite a small wave of resentment from other athletes over his increasing insularity as he passes from athletic star to mass-market hero, has brought himself to a new level of readiness.
"I admire him for all he's taking here," said his father, Bill. "I couldn't have done it. Whenever someone says, 'You stink,' he says, 'I'll take a bath.' " That is, he lets his performances be his final rebuttal. And they were unanswerable.