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Myrella Bordt was an independent movie set and costume designer, fluent in English, when she met Edwin Moses in West Berlin in the summer of 1980, shortly after he'd lowered the world record for the third time, to 47.13, on a dimly lit track in Milan. She was an admitted track groupie and such a fan of Moses she had his picture on her bedroom wall. He says it was over her bed; she says she wasn't that kind of fan. "He looked so intriguing," says Myrella. "It was just one of those crushes. He was a peanut head—look at how tiny his head is—but I knew this was the guy. He was gorgeous going over the hurdle—the look, the form, the mood it portrayed. He was compelling."
Moses had just concluded what he refers to as his "troubled years." He was criticized for not running indoors. He was criticized for not running outdoors in the U.S. in 1978. Moses's rejoinder that he was busy taking 21 hours his final semester at Morehouse wasn't enough. Here the world was asking what Moses might do against Nehemiah in the highs or against Alberto Juantorena in the flat 400, and all he wanted to do was go off and study physics? Can't a black guy get his degree?
Moses wouldn't play ball in other ways. He moved to California and refused to join or run for any track club. Instead, he and Rono—who at the time was the world-record holder in the steeplechase, 5,000 and 10,000—formed their own outfit, just the two of them, calling it the Utopia Track Club. Moses spurned coaches, ignored advice and shunned traditional training methods. He picked his spots and his meets, and he recalled what Jackson had said: Don't let them force you to run when you're not ready. When he did run, "I used to walk away from guys," Moses says. "There was just no challenge, no thrill. I was stagnating, bored. The event was boring. Then came the '80 boycott. It was a dark time.
"I know I alienated a lot of people, but those were the days coaches and agents and promoters were ripping off the athletes. I felt they all wanted a piece of what I'd earned myself. Track and field was such a parent-child relationship—the athletes were kids being ordered what to do, or else."
Of Moses's continuous domination of the intermediate hurdles without benefit of a coach, Walker says, "Edwin's knowledge of the event is so infinite as to make any coach superfluous, possibly an unnecessary confusion. That's if he could find anybody who knew more about hurdling than he did, which would probably be impossible. All Ed needs is somebody to hold the watch."
On more than one occasion Moses has said, "I don't need anybody."
But probably he did need somebody—Myrella.
Phillips calls Moses Team Ranger now, and Myrella "Tonto—only she is much more beautiful." Gordon Baskin, a low-key former banker, is Moses's new business manager. Ken Yoshino, a physical therapist for the U.S. women's volleyball team, serves in a similar capacity for Moses. Myrella does the phones, the pictures, the vegetables, the secretarial duties. She holds the watch, too.
"Given the political exigencies, those old stories about Ed were to be expected. At the same time they had nothing to do with what he was about," says Young, who's now studying for a doctorate in theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. "He was always fiercely independent. He couldn't be exploited. He took pride in his work. But there was something missing. I see a joy and brightness in Ed that wasn't there before. Being in love has produced noticeable changes."
Vivacious and exotic, irreverent and supporting, Myrella has forced Moses to open up. "I talk too much during interviews; he has to open up to shut me up," says the girl Moses calls Beanie after a cartoon character. Beanie has made a concerted effort to change the Moses image—from his speech delivery to his close-cropped hairstyle to the bright (mostly red) colors he dons for battle. "She even changed my underwear," Moses says, "to bikinis, polka dots, the hot stuff."