To the 50 or so spectators who had cut school or work to be in Madison Square Garden for the daytime session of the TAC USA/ Mobil Indoor Track & Field Championships last Friday, the triple jump was all but over after the Soviet Union's Oleg Protsenko soared 57'7�" on his sixth and final attempt. That was 2� inches farther than any American had ever tri-leaped indoors. Protsenko already held the indoor world mark in the triple (57'11�"), so he was supposed to win. Time to split, check out the sushi and souvlaki joints, do a little shopping at Macy's reflect on the dazzling performance of East Germany's Heike Drechsler earlier in the long jump and be back in plenty of time to catch the evening events.
Protsenko was so confident of his closing effort that he gathered up his equipment bag and departed from the nearly empty arena. "It's over.' " he told Igor Ter-Ovanesian, coach of the eight-member Soviet contingent that was competing in New York as a warmup to the first World Indoor Track and Field Championships, to be held this weekend in Indianapolis.
But six men had yet to make their final trips down the red-planked runway. One of them. Mike Conley. an assistant track and field coach at Arkansas, sought support from his wife. Ren�, who was seated just behind the railing that separated the spectators from the competitors. Conley is the world's top-ranked triple jumper, with a personal best of 58'1�" But he did that outdoors. His longest indoor jump had been only 57'1". "Do you think I can do it?" Conley asked his wife.
"You can do it." Ren� assured her husband with a nod and a grin. As Conley started back up the track. Al Joyner fell into step beside him. Joyner. the triple-jump gold medalist at the LA. Olympics ( Conley won the silver), had been the first competitor to jump after Protsenko. but he had landed far short of the Soviet. 55'6�". "I've been watching you." Joyner told Conley. "'You look good on the first two phases, but you're not pulling your knees up on the jump. Pull them up and keep them up."
Conley's takeoff from the board was perfect. Touching down from the hop, he launched a soaring step. "Each phase dictates how good the next one will be," he said afterward. "My middle phase [the step] was long, and it was under perfect control. I knew the last one was going to be good."
With Joyner yelling at him to pull up his knees, Conley exploded into his jump. In the stands, Ren� softly chanted. "You can do it. You can do it. You can do it." She leapt to her feet: "You did it!"
As Conley landed well down the 19'6" pit, he pitched forward. His left knee landed in the cushiony sawdust, but his right one slammed outside the pit on the yellow floorboards. "A few more inches and I would have been out of the pit." he said. "I knew I had won." Conley had shattered the world indoor record with a leap of 58'3�". It was the sixth-longest triple ever and the first to surpass 58 feet indoors.
At the Penta Hotel across the street from the Garden, Ter-Ovanesian found Protsenko lounging in the lobby. "I left too soon." said Protsenko upon learning of Conley's world record. "Maybe I should have hung around."
Which is just what Conley would do for the remainder of the day. His final touchdown had come at 3:35 p.m. Less than three hours later he was scheduled to compete in the long jump, one of the first events of the evening session. But his record performance carried an immediate responsibility—a urine test.
At four o'clock Conley. dehydrated from the long competition, went to the testing station, where he remained for the next hour and 20 minutes. "I must have drunk two gallons of water and Gatorade," he said.