MARY AND ZOLA
Kenny Moore once again weds the strong heart of a marathoner with the voice of a poet. His story (Triumph and Tragedy in Los Angeles, Aug. 20) was eye-openingly beautiful, and this is from one who saw firsthand from an L.A. Coliseum seat much of what he reported. His description of the Mary Decker-Zola Budd incident has a Sophoclean vision that probes the principals without passing judgment. Extraordinary. Hang it in SI's literary Louvre alongside his other fine features.
It was a shame to see Mary Decker fall in the women's 3,000, but the real tragedy was her attempt to take Zola Budd's career with her. It's very difficult to believe that Mary was the Sportswoman of the Year in '83 after her attack on Budd after the race.
This is not to demean in any way the accomplishments of Carl Lewis in the '84 Olympic track and field events, nor is it intended to cast aspersions on the tremendous feat of Jesse Owens in 1936. But let's not forget that Owens wasn't the first to win four track and field events in the Olympics.
Alvin Kraenzlein of the University of Pennsylvania won four in the Olympics in Paris in 1900: the 60-meter dash, the 110 meters, the 200-meter hurdles and the running broad jump (now called the long jump).
The only blemish on Kraenzlein's record might be in the broad jump, which probably should have been won by Meyer Prinstein of Syracuse University. Prinstein, though he was Jewish, gave his pledge to the pious Syracuse administration and to his teammates that he wouldn't participate in any Sunday competition. He kept his word and fumed on the sidelines when Kraenzlein won the event by less than an inch in the Sunday finals. Prinstein had had the best qualifying jump in the preliminaries. (At the time, qualifying distances stood if they weren't surpassed in the finals.) In the 1904 games in St. Louis, in which Kraenzlein didn't compete, Prinstein won the long jump as well as the hop-step-and-jump, as the triple jump was then called.
Pompano Beach, Fla.
The Olympics may be over, but one Olympic sport remains: assessing Anita Verschoth's predictions in the preview issue (The 1984 Olympics, July 18). The figures are in: 99 of 225 gold medals correct (44%); 52 of 220 silvers (24%); 41 of 241 bronzes (17%). If the type of medal isn't considered, 360 of her 687 picks were correct (52.4%). Fifteen of the events were predicted perfectly, while in 15 cases no medal winner was correctly picked. Verschoth was best in basketball (2 of 2 golds), boxing (8 of 12 golds), swimming (24 of 32 golds) and diving (7 of 12 medals). She was worst in yachting (1 of 7 golds), kayaking (2 of 12 golds), cycling (5 of 24 medals), modern pentathlon (1 of 6 medals) and shooting (6 of 33 medals). Considering that more than 7,000 athletes were competing, I'd rate it at least a silver-medal performance.
By the way, I'm glad I didn't bet the house and farm on fencer Dorina Vaccaroni—she got a bronze, not a gold.
JEFFREY S. SIMONOFF
New York City
I don't want to put down Mary Lou Retton, who's obviously a superb athlete and a determined competitor, but TV coverage and newspaper and magazine reporting leave the impression that Retton was the dominant performer in women's gymnastics at the Los Angeles Games. Yet your medal summary in the August 20 issue (Olympic Medal Winners) indicates that Retton won one gold medal (in all-around), two silvers (one of them a team silver) and two bronzes. On the other hand, Ecaterina Szabo of Romania won four golds (one of them a team gold) and one silver. And my understanding is that she would have won the all-around gold except for a rare and untimely slip. I don't understand much about gymnastics competition, but would it be correct to assume that Szabo, on the basis of the competition at Los Angeles, is superior to Retton? Just asking.
?Winning the all-around title in gymnastics is more significant than an accumulation of individual medals. Also, Szabo didn't make a slip that cost her the all-around. She was leading, with one apparatus left. She scored an excellent 9.90 on the uneven bars, while Retton got a perfect 10 on her vault. The difference won the gold for Retton.—ED.
While basically agreeing with William Taaffe's favorable review of ABC's Olympic coverage (TV/RADIO, Aug. 20), I think he lets the network off the hook in two instances. One was Kathleen Sullivan's inept interview with Mary Decker the day after Decker's collision with Zola Budd in the 3,000. The situation deserved the kind of tough but compassionate questioning that Howard Cosell used earlier during an interview with beleaguered U.S. boxing coach Pat Nappi. What Sullivan gave us was five minutes or so of fawning.