In high school I loved track and field . The one sport where at times I felt at ease with myself. However once I got bitten by the martial art’s bug . That was it I was smitten. Track and fied though was the regimen that gave me strength and power to build my body. OK so there are some who’ll say lifting weights’ll go a long way as well . And I for one wouldn’t disagree with that at all.
But of all the track athletes I’ve seen over the years . And it’s been a considerable number even given the exploits of Usain Bolt at the Beijing Olympics. Where it can be said even though he was overshadowed by the exploits of Michael Phelps there in Beijing. Phelps’ own shortcomings since then has been tabloid fodder for the dailies acrosss the world. Somewhat ironic given the fact that Bolt as a Jamaican would be the one you would consider more likely to be taking a hit from a bong. But there again it’s somewhat disdainful to tar everyone with the same brush. No not really as Phelps was being an ass to begin with !
Back to the point of this piece. As alluded to track and field is a sport that I love tremendously and still do. However the sport itself here isn’t given the coverage that it’s normally accustomed to getting in Europe and in the Far East and on the African continent. Here however you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could tell you the name of the members of the US men’s relay team on the 4x100m team in Beijing. As I said the sport isn’t really given any due attention until the Olympics . And even then it’s got to be because there’s a chance that there’s a competitor and contender that the country actually cares about. US Track & Field (USATF) does a poor job in getting the sport connected to the public at large. And the coverage the sport gets is merely a passing one here in the US.
At the collegiate level is primarily where the sport garners much of the attention and the interests of the public be enlarge. To say nothing of which many of those athletes are looking to take it to the next level on the professional circuit. Top track stars can make quite a decent living but when measured against that of the more high profiled sports . It pales into insignificance. However the likes of Bolt can make a decent sum when measured the added benefits of appearance money for certain high profiled track meets and the attaining of records. But it’s the off track earnings that can be enormous. And Bolt having garnered three gold medals in Beijing including the sprint double of the 100m and 200m in world record times made a name for himself around the globe. The third was added in the men’s 4x 100m again in world record time. And if anything he’s now the most recognized track athlete in the world. Something of a great accomplishment considering that before Beijing he wasn’t that widely known within the sport at the international level.
Of all the track athletes that I’ve come to admire from afar. It was Edwin Moses who first caught my eye as a youngster. He was a supremely gifted athlete and his success in the sport is the stuff that legends are made of. Three time Olympic medalist at the 400m hurdles. The event itself is still to this day considered to be the man killler in terms of the energy and athletic prowess and endeavor needed in the event. A flat out sprint over twelve obstacles for one complete circuit of the track . What Moses did in the event was to reinvent it all together. And his technique to this day has yet to be replicated. Having won the gold medal in the event in Montreal (1976) , he again would repeat the feat in Los Angeles (1984) and added the bronze to his tally in Seoul , Korea in 1988. He would also become a two time world champion in the event in 1983 and 1987 in Helsinki and Rome respectively.
We tend to laud the more high profiled stars of the sport at the time such as Carl Lewis , Florence Grffiths-Joyner and Mike Powell. But when it’s all said and done though the triumvirate mentioned are all noteworthy . It has been Moses if anything who’s carried himself with a great deal of decorum both on and off in his chosen field of endeavor. He’s been recognized for his athletic achievements worldwide. And his civic and philanthropic efforts have been well chronicled. And again more accolades have come his way in this regard.
We don’t always recognize the achievement of athletes such as Moses. But when it’s warranted I do believe that individuals such Edwin Moses should not only be recognized but commended on what they’ve done not just for their own sport. But for sport in general and how they’re viewed if anything by the kids who look up to stars such as this particular individual. He was never tainted by the controversy of drug use to enhance his athletic achievements. And if anything Moses was one of the first athletes to bring it to our attention as to the malfeasance that was to soon become rampant and widespread within track and field.
Records they say are meant to be broken and when they are, it’s meant to be appreciated. In the annals of sport people tend to talk about Di Maggio’s hit streak in baseball (56 games). Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak in baseball and Brett Favre’s consecutive streak in the NFL. By my way of thinking they’re all considerable and commendable feats of endurance athleticism. But Moses’ win streak of of 122 consecutive races over the space of nine years isn’t given the due recognition it deserves. The streak lasted over nine years , whereafter his defeat by German Harald Schmidt he would go unbeaten as mentioned for an unprecedented streak . It wasn’t until in 1987 when his defeat by fellow American Danny Harris at a track meeting Madrid that Moses would taste defeat again. Over that span Moses would lower his world record of 47.64 which he attained when winning the Olympic medal in Montreal. Of the 100 fastest times in the event Moses still holds 26 of them to this day. Quite staggering when one considers that he retired from the sport well over a decade ago. His stranglehold on the event while he competed was simply staggering.
A sport’s man in the true sense of the word who was recognized by his peers as one of the modern alltime greats in track and field athletics. A tremendous athlete but above all a tremendous human being !