It drew scant notice in American newspapers, but runner Marita Koch of East Germany announced her retirement last week because of an injured Achilles tendon, thus ending one of the most distinguished careers in the history of track and field. Koch, a 29-year-old medical student from Wismar, was at once shy, winsome and indomitable. She was named Track & Field News woman athlete of the year four times between 1978 and '85; she set indoor or outdoor world records on 31 occasions at distances ranging from 50 to 400 meters. Koch, a taut 5'7�" and 141 pounds, was the first woman to run the 200 in less than 22 seconds (her world mark of 21.71 still stands, although it has been equaled by compatriot Heike Drechsler) and established a world record in the 400 (47.60) that may not be approached for years. Sadly, the 1984 Olympic boycott cost Koch a chance to defend her 1980 Olympic 400 title—and deprived the American public of its best opportunity to see and admire her graceful talent firsthand.
THAT SINKING FEELING
Until a month ago there were plans to build a basketball court on the parking lot at Flatlander Park in Lakeland, Ga. Then suddenly there was no parking lot; the land in Flatlander was no longer flat. It had fallen into a sinkhole, a phenomenon that occurs when subsurfaces, often limestone-based, dry out during intense heat and the overlying material collapses into the void. This particular sinkhole left an 80-foot-in-diameter, 30-foot-deep asphalt crater. Lakeland officials have decided not to fill it in. "The bulldozers have already sloped it back and combined it with an adjacent pond," says public utilities director Mack Mathis. "Now there's a fishpond for the kids to use."
The hoopster's bane is the angler's gain.
TEAMS IN TRANSITION
Two of the most successful teams in sports have broken up. Team Becker has undergone a coaching change—You can't fire the player, right?—and Team Navratilova has experienced one of its periodic overhauls.
After Boris Becker lost to unseeded Wally Masur in last month's Australian Open—and was fined $2,000 for a series of outbursts that included spitting at an umpire—his coach and mentor, G�nther Bosch, announced that he was leaving the team. Bosch, who was the only coach Becker ever had, said he didn't think the 19-year-old player prepared well enough for major tournaments. Becker ruled out a reconciliation with Bosch and said British track coach Frank Dick would come aboard as his physical conditioner. Becker's manager, Ion Tiriac, remains on the team.
Team Navratilova has a much longer history of such upheavals. In 1981 Martina Navratilova hired Renee Richards as her coach. At about the same time, basketball star Nancy Lieberman signed on as trainer. In September of '82 trainer/dietician Robert Haas also came aboard. "This isn't a team," said Navratilova at the time, "it's an entourage." After Navratilova was upset at the '83 French Open, Richards was replaced by former touring pro Mike Estep. Late in '83 Lieberman departed, and soon thereafter Haas was history.
During Estep's tenure, Entourage Navratilova won 10 Grand Slam singles championships. But early last month Estep quit. "I gave Martina several months to find another team," said Estep in a recent interview with the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "The thrill of the job was starting to wane a little bit." Navratilova has hired former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade as her "strategy coach" and "emotional supporter," and Randy Crawford, a Fort Worth teaching pro, as her hitting partner. Tn its first tournament, the Australian Open, the new team lost in the finals to Hana Mandlikova, snapping Navratilova's 58-match winning streak.
And you thought Martina and Boris were primarily singles players.