SI Vault
 
...AND MEANWHILE IN PHILADELPHIA
Craig Neff
July 28, 1980
Half a world from Lenin Stadium, boycotting athletes, some of whom gave Olympian performances, proved there's no alternative to the Games
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 28, 1980

...and Meanwhile In Philadelphia

Half a world from Lenin Stadium, boycotting athletes, some of whom gave Olympian performances, proved there's no alternative to the Games

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

With Nehemiah's victory and a superb men's 400 in which only .22 separated 17-year-old winner Billy Konchellah of Kenya from fifth-place Herman Frazier of the U.S., the crowd became interested. Don Paige, like Frazier a local hero, soon had them roaring as he held off Kalifa Omar Kalifa of the Sudan in the final stretch of the 800 to win in 1:47.19. "I've never seen a crowd like this in Franklin Field," said Paige. "I think it's great they're getting a chance to see what some of the European meets are like." Angella Taylor of Canada and Chandra Cheese-borough of the U.S. squared off next in the women's 200, with Taylor narrowly winning. Closer still was the men's 200, in which James Butler beat U.S. teammate Fred Taylor 20.65 to 20.66. Remarkably, this wasn't the tightest race of the evening. In the American sweep of the men's 100, winner Mel Lattany and Harvey Glance each ran 10.31, followed by Willie Gault in 10.33. Finally, after a 5,000 in which Kip Rono (no kin to Henry) outkicked fellow Kenyan Hillary Tuwei, it was time for a much different race, one matching runner to clock: Mary Decker in the women's 1,500.

Fully recovered from a plantar fascia injury in her left foot that had bothered her in the spring, Decker had set the American women's record in the 1,500 (4:01.17) just five days earlier in Stuttgart, West Germany, and then had taken almost four seconds off the U.S. women's 3,000 mark by running an 8:38.73 in Oslo in her first race at the distance. By the time she arrived in Philadelphia late Wednesday night she was "sluggish" from an 18-hour Oslo-to- Philadelphia flight, including a four-hour layover in New York. "I was still looking to run somewhere around four minutes," she said later. "I had aspirations of going faster than at Stuttgart."

At the gun Decker was off into the lead, with Julie Brown, also of the U.S., close by. Decker was hoping that Brown would push her to a fast time, but by 600 meters it was evident that, as usual, Decker would go it alone. She passed 800 in 2:07.3, nearly four seconds ahead of Brown, moving with ease through the still, humid air. The crowd was on its feet. With 400 meters left she was at 2:57.2, still showing no strain. Coming off the far turn and down the stretch, seeing the clock at 3:57...3:58, she pressed to the limit. She hit the tape at 4:00.87 for her third U.S. record in six days and her seventh world or U.S. mark of 1980.

"The crowd was fantastic," she said after her victory lap. "They pulled me. Right now I'm hoping to race the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists next month in Budapest or Zurich. The world record [3:55.0] is definitely in my mind, and not too far back, either. This meet didn't replace the Olympics by any means, but I think it was...appropriate. Perhaps we should have one like this in the U.S. every year."

1 2