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Trials And Jubilation
Kenny Moore
July 02, 1984
Out of nine days, in which by harsh necessity exultation combined with despair, came the U.S. Olympic track team
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July 02, 1984

Trials And Jubilation

Out of nine days, in which by harsh necessity exultation combined with despair, came the U.S. Olympic track team

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Conditions were vexing in the long-jump final. A swirling wind made it a matter of luck whether a jumper's step pattern would result in his jumping foot coming anywhere near the takeoff board.

Larry Myricks got off a first jump of 27'�". No one else was close to that. Until Lewis. Sprinting with his hands as flat as knives, his fingertips coming just to eye level, he took a little step of adjustment near the end, hit the board well and landed far out. He looked at the crater he had made in the sand with wide-eyed shock, as if this might have been the one, the jump to surpass Bob Beamon's 29'2�" of 16 years ago.

It wasn't, quite. It was 28'7", 3� inches short of the best Lewis has ever done. "But it was so easy," said Tellez. So easy that even though he had surely made the team, he took another jump, this one with grim purpose. If a record was in the air, he was going to give it a chance to materialize. But the wind threw him off, he missed his steps and ran through the pit. Thereafter, he passed all his jumps, pacing the infield in stocking feet, orange flight suit and black and orange Lycra tights that created a kind of voodoo-court jester effect.

Call it corporate punk. A variety of these suits had been created by Nike for its top athletes.

Lewis had taken one look and said, "Wow, I want those, a different one every day."

"He's a sprinter," said Tom Dederian of Nike's clothing division. "He wants to look special. I call this dealing with the psycho-technical. The colors aren't functional. But athletes are frequently a lot more psycho than they are technical."

A fine example came on the last jump of the competition. Lewis had won. Myricks held second place; he would be a three-time Olympian. The man on the bubble for the third spot was Jason Grimes, who was the silver medalist in last year's world championships. He had reached 26'7�".

Enter Mike McRae, 28, a full-time production supervisor for a microfilm company in Emeryville, Calif. "I said to myself, 'What a perfect ending this would make,' " he would say later. Bearded, beatific, McRae speaks with a mildness that suggests he's attuned to what has been ordained. He was in fifth, at 26'3�". "I heard the people clapping. I didn't want to wait four more years."

He ran and jumped, and those in the stands who hadn't gone into the chilly night roared. "I looked at their faces," said McRae. "I knew that I'd made it." He had, with 26'9".

In the 200-meter final, Lewis was in Lane 5, and after his 19.84 in the second round, the Coliseum was humming with the giddy certainty of seeing a world record. Missing was Calvin Smith, the Helsinki world champion ( Lewis didn't run the 200 in Helsinki). He hadn't recovered enough from a hamstring strain to train for the furlong, and finished fifth in his semi, in 20.65. His Olympics will be the 400 relay.

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