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It was all over but the shouting, and that is more than just a figure of speech. The announcer for the Bruce Jenner/Michelob Light track and field classic at the San Jose City College stadium was saying, "Well, folks, that's it, thanks for coming." But most of the folks were already gone, so few of them will ever say, "Remember the '82 Jenner?" or hear the reply, "Were you there, too?" Few of them will ever say those things, unless, that is, they sat in their seats to the glorious finish, or were among those who lingered in the emptying parking lots until late afternoon and heard an explosion of shouting and whistling; unless they peered back at the nearly deserted stadium and saw at its far end a tight knot of diehards waving their arms; unless they hurried back to observe a huge, handsome and seemingly bewildered 25-year-old named Bob Roggy (rhymes with logy, which he is occasionally accused of being), who had just thrown a javelin the startling distance of 307'6". That broke Mark Murro's 12-year-old American record of 300 feet, which of course is the length of a football field, and a javelin weighs 800 grams (1.8 pounds) and is more than eight feet long. Consider that.
The javelin competition at the Jenner meet had usually been held in the morning, there being in track and field a well-founded fear of what might happen when large, pointed objects soar near crowds. But the Jenner people were tempted by the prospect of providing an audience for athletes who usually never see one, and by the record-making potential in the prevailing afternoon winds. As it turned out, the wind wasn't a factor; it blew across the field, not down it. Thus, after the effusive Willie Banks had won the triple jump, the next-to-last event on the day's program, the fans began filing out.
It has always been a bad idea to turn one's back on a javelin thrower; Roggy would soon make that doubly true.
The previous evening he had lain on the floor of his hotel room, stretching. "I'm really relaxed," he told his fiancée, Sheryl Newkirk, also 25, a membership saleswoman and aerobic dancing teacher at the Holiday Spa in Encino, Calif. "Two hundred and seventy-five feet should win. I figure I can do that and still not put too much pressure on...." Roggy touched his left knee, where the patellar tendon had been painfully inflamed since mid-March. In the five weeks since, he had been afraid to put his full weight on it; until two days before the meet he hadn't so much as lifted a javelin. But the men's javelin and shotput events had been designated USA/Mobil Outdoor Grand Prix events, in the Jenner and in two future events. There was legal money to be made, as much as $2,500 in all at the three meets, a strange and wonderful phenomenon to an amateur athlete. So the next afternoon Roggy stood on the field at San Jose and gingerly flexed his knee.
He was ninth to throw in a field of 11, and his first two attempts went only 260'10" and 261'2", putting him in fourth place. He knew that his throwing arm was coming around too early, before he had planted his tender left leg, and a javelin thrower's leg should be planted before the arm begins its movement. Roggy decided, too, that he needed more speed coming down the runway, especially in the cross-stepping phase of the run-in, that crablike series of steps that enable a javelin thrower to turn his upper body parallel to the runway and to launch the implement with full power.
On Roggy's third attempt he ran faster, but even so he was more controlled. His throw came out nice and low, but not too low. A javelin has to break parallel in order to score. Roggy's did, and it dug in at 298 feet and three inches, the best throw of his life. "I can't believe it," he kept saying.
Roggy figured he could win the competition without even making his last three attempts. "Why risk injury?" he said to his roommate, shotputter Dave Laut, whose put of 66'4½" had placed him second to Brian Old-field's 66'6".
Laut reminded him, "You're less than two feet short of the American record."
Roggy's knee felt fine, so he decided to continue, and on his momentous fourth attempt he seemed even more aggressive than on the-third. He started four feet farther back and he blazed down the runway even more quickly this time, seemingly deep in concentration, but relaxedly so. His arm came up and over like a whip, the javelin shot downrange, and Roggy watched in wonderment.
Someone shouted, "At least 300 feet," and the judges headed out with the measuring tape. Roggy looked at the tape at his end and saw the figure 300, and at that point the tape wasn't even close to the toe-board. As he walked away, clapping a hand to his head—he really couldn't believe it—he heard a judge saying, "Oh-one, oh-two, oh-three...."