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Well, there were constant reminders of the cramped past. Eamonn Coghlan's left foot got tangled with the right foot of West Germany's Dieter Baumann with 480 meters to go in their 1,500 semi, and Coghlan found himself rolling on the track. He picked himself up 15 meters behind, roared impressively from eighth to third, then let up and was passed a step before the finish line by Baumann and Canada's Dave Campbell, and so did not qualify for the final.
That seemed all too reminiscent of the outdoors, for it brought back the image of another red-and-white West German shirt going past the helpless Coghlan in the 1976 Olympic 1,500. when Paul-Heinz Wellmann thrust past him, consigning the Irishman to fourth and no medal. Coghlan's Olympic fortunes outdoors have been unrelieved misery. He finished fourth again in the 1980 5,000 in Moscow, then was injured in 1984. But indoors, he holds the mile (3:49.78) and 1,500 (3:35.6) records. Thus his plight in Indianapolis drew sympathy. When officials from Ireland filed an appeal on behalf of their countryman, running events referee John Chaplin, the coach at Washington State, looked at the tape of the fall and surprisingly reinstated Coghlan even though he found no foul. "We put him back," said Chaplin, "in the essence of fairness."
That had the thick odor of indoors, where meet promoters have sometimes taken the liberty of entirely exempting stars from qualifying heats. "It's the only thing they could have done," said New York City Marathon director Fred Le-bow, being directorial. "Coghlan is the best-known name in the meet."
Spain, Holland and Italy appealed the reinstatement. Coghlan himself took a balanced view. "If they want to honor the stated rules, they should keep me out." he said. "If they want to have a good world championship board meeting, they should let the chairman in there. I've a gut feeling I'll get through."
Ah, but that was his indoors gut talking, and the Jury of Appeals came from Senegal, East Germany and Singapore. The letter of the law allowed them no choice. They made Coghlan a spectator.
Spain's José Abascal tried to run away with the race over the last 400, but Ireland's Marcus O'Sullivan caught him on the final lap. They sprinted shoulder to shoulder around the turn and down the stretch. Only in the last strides did O'Sullivan strain ahead to win in 3:39.04 to Abascal's 3:39.13.
Coghlan had watched the 1,500 with longing, and irony. "Ah, well," he said. "Another twist in the curious life of Eamonn Coghlan." In emphasis as he said it, Coghlan screwed his face and body into a tortured gargoyle. Is he, one wondered, being saved for something?
Fate found Foster and Mark McKoy entirely expendable on Sunday, the third and final day of the championships. At the start of the 60-meter hurdles, theirs seemed a great matchup, because McKoy had owned a share of the 7.47 world record until Foster cut it to 7.46 in Saturday's semis. Hurdlers must run to one side of their lane in order to leave the rest of it free to accommodate their wide-swinging trailing legs over the hurdles. McKoy leads with his right leg, Foster with his left. So when they were assigned adjacent lanes, four and five, McKoy groaned. "When he's to my right, we always hit each other."
McKoy's solution was to jump so far ahead that Foster could not endanger him. It produced a great start. Foster had hoped to race with smooth, repetitive technique, because this track was so fast it was like a tail wind that seemed to push him too close to the oncoming hurdles. But now, suddenly three feet behind, Foster pressed wildly, clipped the second hurdle, drifted toward McKoy, staggered into McKoy's lane and ensnared McKoy's right arm.
"I was comfortable and quick," said McKoy. "Then I felt my arm go, and I couldn't run any more."