When Nehemiah was introduced, the 13,261 in the L.A. Sports Arena rose and cheered him, a prodigal returned. He was moved. "Wow," he thought, "I've really been missed."
The two rivals crouched in the blocks, along with Kingdom, Milan Stewart and the U.S. record holder at this infrequently run distance (time: 7.58), Tonie Campbell. Foster tried to think only of his own technique. He wanted to run down a lonely corridor, empty save for five hurdles.
At the gun Foster, Kingdom and Stewart all felt they had false-started. Perhaps because they had moved in unison, the starter and recall starter judged the start fair. "I thought it'd be called back," said Kingdom.
It wasn't. Nehemiah led to the first hurdle, then was caught by Foster and Stewart. All admitted to momentary hesitation after the gun. The one who overcame it first was Foster. "I lost the Olympic gold medal because I thought I'd false-started and I relaxed," he said. "I don't do that anymore."
Nehemiah clobbered the third hurdle, and Foster gained a clear lead. He finished strongly to win by almost two yards. Campbell just caught the struggling Nehemiah for second.
"I'm happy with the win," said Foster as the first talk of a false start swirled around him. "I did feel I might be called back," he said, "but the time could only be made slower by what happened. Well, none of us started off really attacking...."
Finally the announcement came. His time was 7.36 seconds, 11 of a second better than the world record set last year by Mark McKoy of Canada. Foster yelled, seemingly impaled with joy, and bolted through a victory lap. "I didn't think it could be that fast," he said.
It was that fast, but it was no record. Bob Hersh, TAC Records chairman, would decide on Sunday that he wouldn't submit it to the IAAF after reviewing a tape of the race and determining that, in fact, there had been a false start. But that decision did not alter the result of the race.
"Greg was the only one who ran his hardest from start to finish," said Nehemiah, "but even had I done that, he still would have won. I was rusty. The leg speed was there, but I didn't have control of it. I was all over the track.
"It means a lot to be back in track and field," Nehemiah added. "Before, I was too busy rewriting the record book to appreciate the sportsmanship, the special community we have in track. Sure, even the boards felt funny, and I'd forgotten how much intensity you have to force into seven seconds, but I couldn't expect it to all come back in one meet. Give me three or four."