At the Munich Olympics of 1972, no champion competed stronger or with more joy than John Akii-Bua of Uganda. In setting the world record for the 400-meter hurdles and indulging his delight after the race, Akii-Bua was a splash of joy on Munich's tragic backdrop.
For the last 11 months, however, sadness has been Akii-Bua's lot. Denied permission to compete alone out of his country, Akii-Bua has not raced internationally since last June, and though he still trains, he has given thought to ending his track career.
A member of the Lango tribe that Idi Amin, the sinister Ugandan dictator, has been purging, Akii-Bua described his situation to Bill Brubaker of The Miami News in an overseas phone call last week.
While his African and American friends have feared for his life, Akii-Bua told Brubaker that he was in no danger. He is a policeman in Kampala, and he does not want to leave Uganda permanently because he has 15 family members to support.
"I may run no more," Akii-Bua said to Brubaker. "I have still been training but I can't get any competition anymore. It's because of the National Council of Sports. They won't give me clearance to compete out of Uganda. They just don't want me to go. They want me to carry a coach with me. I don't need a coach. We have only one national coach, and if I take him, the rest of the athletes in the country—about 30 of them—will stay without a coach."
Apprised of his friends' concern, Akii-Bua said, "I'm glad they care about me. Naturally I'm disappointed. Sometimes I think of quitting track forever, but I think Edwin Moses [world-record setter in last week's AAU meet, page 24] needs me. Only I can challenge him, nobody else. In my spare time I don't do anything. I just sit and listen to records. You know, Diana Ross."
Akii-Bua asked Brubaker for a favor: "Can you send me your old copies of Track & Field News? I want to see what's been happening. Maybe next year I will run. I hope." So do we.
KISMET COMES THROUGH
When Portland beat Philadelphia for the NBA Championship, the Blazers' success was attributed to teamwork, a sometime thing for the 76ers. It seems, however, that destiny may also have had a hand in the proceedings.