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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
THE BIG SURPRISE
It was obvious from the outset that the highly publicized London- Moscow track meet, held under lights at White City Stadium one night last week, could end only in crushing victory for the Soviet invaders. Theoretically at least, all of the U.S.S.R.'s state-subsidized career athletes are residents of Moscow; London had only amateurs living within the city, and not even the best of them (since Miler Roger Bannister has retired for the season) to pit against this Olympic Games might. But all of England fairly quivered to see the struggle—45,000 people jammed the stadium and 10 million people tuned in to watch on television.
Part of the interest, of course, was simple curiosity about the blue-clad Soviet juggernaut, the first Russian track team to compete in England since 1878. But England also nursed a hope, so strong in some cases as to lead scores of fans into the un-British trick of sneaking over the fence to get in. "I've just got," said one of these desperately, as his stranded wife cursed him from the other side, "to see Chataway (right) run." Red-headed Chris Chataway had paced both Bannister and John Landy to their world-record miles. He had beaten the phenomenal Czech runner Emil Zatopek in the 5,000 meter event of the European games—only to push an unknown Russian sailor named Vladimir Kuc on to victory and a world record. But now England thought Chataway's night had come.
It had. Kuc, undoubtedly aware that his red-headed foe (an executive of the Guinness Stout Co.) had not had his unlimited opportunities for training, slipped into the lead at the gun and set a blazing pace. Chataway fell in, exactly one stride behind. They ran as though tied together for a mile. Then Kuc, with a prodigal expenditure of energy, began trying to kill his rival off. He sprinted alarmingly for 100 yards. Chataway sprinted with him. Kuc tried it again and again—in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth laps. Chataway never left his heels.
"It was the most extravagant race I have ever run," Chataway said when it was over. "Each time he sprinted I thought it was for the last time. But it wasn't. I had no idea he was so difficult to beat." But at the end of two miles Chataway was still exactly one stride behind—and the stadium was in bedlam. He was still there at the bell for the final quarter mile. Searchlights atop the stadium picked the two men up and followed them—still running in perfect tandem. Then, 50 yards from home, Chataway made his move, gained, inch by agonizing inch, and hit the tape amid an hysterical uproar, one half stride in the lead. His time: 13:51.6, a new world record.
When the meet was over the two teams met for a banquet at the Dorchester Hotel and the casual Chataway horrified the joyless Russians all over again; he leaned back after dessert and lighted a big, black cigar.
STICKS FLY, TEMPERS FLARE
With the season only a week old, the National Hockey League's top contenders—Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens—fought with the bitterness of Stanley Cup finalists. High-sticking, roughing, and general rowdiness added up to 10 penalties and a 3-2 Detroit win before 14,518 whooping spectators at Montreal.
Fastest five minutes seen at the Forum in recent years produced a Canadien drive that came very close to pulling out the game Trailing 3-1 with only seven minutes left to play, Maurice (Rocket) Richard, high-scoring demigod of the Montreal team, barreled down the ice. Hurling himself toward the Detroit goal he took a pass from Doug Harvey and slapped the puck into the net before skidding full tilt into a tangle of players that included bewildered Goalie Terry Sawchuck. As the red scoring light flashed, the Rocket rose to his knees (above), and joined his stick-waving teammate Bert Olmstead in yell of triumph.