Many things were happening that were beyond Lewis's control. In Berlin, meet organizers claimed there was a chance he would run in their 100, even though there wasn't; when Lewis didn't show up, he was blasted by the West German press. In London on Aug. 18, Lewis was beset thrice over: Hoping to set a world record in the rarely contested distance of 300 meters, he instead finished a fading fourth. Afterward, appearing in the Crystal Palace press box, he faced questions about his eager conversion of Olympic gold into hard cash and his lack of radical consciousness. At night's end, to escape a pushy mob of autograph seekers, he had to flee across the darkened stadium infield with the fans in hot pursuit and to jump into a waiting car. The crowd turned ugly, pounding on the car and taunting Lewis. To Lewis's great credit, he remained buoyant throughout the week, even jaunty. "All I expected was happiness," he said of his Olympic triumphs, "and I have a ton of that."
When Lewis stepped off the track in Zurich, out came the Eastern bloc women, carrying a bundle of Olympic-boycott frustrations. Here came tiny Lucyna Kalek of Poland flitting over the 100-meter hurdles ahead of all three L.A. medalists in 12.53, a time no Western woman has ever approached. And there went double world champion (400 and 800) Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia, now 33 and about to retire. Her anvil of a body gone a little soft at the edges, she finished second to Ludmilla Borisova of the Soviet Union in the Budapest 400, but she won the 800 in 1:57.68, 4.4 above her women's world record, with Olympic silver medalist Kim Gallagher of the U.S. fifth. And then there was the silky Marita Koch of East Germany to easily dispose of all three Olympic medalists in the 200 in 21.87—from a blind outside lane yet. Koch, 27, the 200 meter world-record holder (21.71), would have been favored to win both the 200 and 400 in Los Angeles. But she took special satisfaction in having beaten L.A.'s own Valerie Brisco-Hooks, who won the Olympic 200 and 400. "You have to be 110 percent to beat Marita Koch, and I wasn't," said a fatigued Brisco-Hooks after finishing fourth. "My lower back tightened up coming to Europe, and when I ran I couldn't find my gears." Koch was shyly pleased, Brisco-Hooks—24 and improving fast—not disappointed. This year both had had their shining moments.
Greg Foster was another with an Olympic champion in his sights. Heavily favored to win the 110 hurdles in L.A., he had instead been rattled by what he thought to be a false start and had lost by .03 second to Pitt junior Roger Kingdom. In Berlin, Foster had gained a measure of revenge by defeating Kingdom 13.16 to 13.17; in Zurich, he nipped Kingdom again, 13.15 to 13.16, with a strong lean at the line. "After the Olympics, all my friends said I was still No. 1 in their book," said Foster. "But for me to believe that, I had to prove it to myself." His 13.15, the year's fastest time, and his two victories were proof enough.
No European racing season can be complete without world-record attempts in the middle distances, of course, and the Zurich meet had three of them—all unnecessary failures. In the first, Olympic 5,000 champion Said Aouita of Morocco missed Sebastian Coe's mile mark by more than two seconds with a 3:49.54, a time that was nonetheless the fastest of the year. Coe, Britain's two-time Olympic 1,500 gold medalist, then fell nearly two seconds short of countryman Steve Ovett's 1,500 record with a time of 3:32.39. Finally, Brazil's Joaquim Cruz, the Olympic champion in the 800, turned in the third-fastest 800 in history: a 1:42.34, just .61 off another of Coe's world marks.
While each race was exciting, each was also notably flawed. The problem with the mile was that it shouldn't have been run. It had been hastily added to the program at the last minute to accommodate Aouita, who really wanted to run the 1,500 but was refusing to cooperate with Coe's record attempt in that race. "It seems to me we can't have this," griped Coe. "There are few occasions when you can actually go out and try for a world record." Said Aouita, "If I'd beaten Coe I would've gotten the world record. I go into the race with a better time this year [3:31.54] and he wants me to help him."
Aouita (pronounced OW-ee-ta) is one of the three men's middle-distance runners—Cruz and Britain's Steve Cram being the others—who'll be heard from most in the next five to 10 years. The range of his talent is astonishing. A former national junior-team soccer player from Fez, he has run the 100 in 11.1, the 800 in 1:44.38 and the 5,000 in 13:04.78. Aouita is a late bloomer at 23 while Coe, by comparison, seems to have been around forever but is merely 27.
Both suffered from inadequate performances by their rabbits in Zurich. Australia's Mike Hillardt lagged on the third lap of the mile, while U.S. veteran James Robinson did likewise on the second lap of the 1,500.
"Sometimes it comes off, and sometimes it doesn't," said Coe with a shrug. But there was a sense of what had been lost. Cruz, a junior at the University of Oregon, saw his chance at a record evaporate when pacer Omar Kalifa of the Sudan tired and didn't get out of his way on the backstretch of the last lap. "I moved out to pass, but he moved out, too," said Cruz later. "I had to move back in to get by. It cost me at least half a second." And so, on a slightly down note, ended the Zurich meet.
But the excitement first sparked by Ashford carried over. In Brussels two nights later, Cruz had a 1:42.41 in the 800 and pulled runner-up Johnny Gray to an American-record 1:43.28. French steeplechaser Joseph Mahmoud approached Henry Rono's 1978 world record of 8:05.4 with an 8:07.62, and Aouita, despite being unable to keep track of his pace because of malfunctioning stadium clocks, came within 1.20 seconds of Rono's world 3,000 mark with a 7:33.30. Building was the hunger that could lead to a fascinating 1985. "Next year I want world records," vowed Aouita. "Next year I shall try for all of them."
Cruz was left with the same eagerness after a 1:41.77—just .04 off Coe's world 800 record—in Cologne. All week long he'd been unable to sleep thinking about the record attempt. On Saturday night, however, Cruz decided to make Cologne his final race of the year, and that brought relief from the tension. He cruised through 400 meters behind rabbit Thomas Giessing of West Germany in 49.5—.2 faster than Coe's record pace—before relaxing too much on his second lap. "I was spacy out there," Cruz said afterward. "I was too lazy." Still, he'd carried Kenya's Sammy Koskei to a 1:42.28 and Gray to a repeat of his U.S. record. Cruz wasn't crushed. "I have to go under 1:41 next year," he said. "I have something to work for and something to look forward to."