Next to putting a Soviet citizen in orbit, heads of the U.S.S.R. polity would probably rather drub the United States in the dual track meet in Philadelphia this week than achieve any other single thing. If you score the meet as the Soviets will—men and women together—they stand a chance, for the Russian female, at least in track and field, is much deadlier than the male. The U.S., of course, will score the meets as two separate competitions. With no solid precedent for scoring such a dual meet, the nations seem to have reached tacit agreement to score the meet—or meets—to suit themselves. The U.S. men, who won 126-109 last summer in Moscow, should increase that margin; the U.S. women, who lost 63-44, may not do as well this year.
Other than whatever international awareness this meet engenders, its most significant aspect may be the makeup of the two teams. The United States team, replenished by the almost inexhaustible supply of good young athletes in this country, will have only 16 men who were on the 41-man 1958 team in Moscow, yet the team will be even stronger. The Russians, alarmed at their disappointing showing last year, instituted a crash program of accelerated training. This plan is probably directed toward the Olympics next year, but it seems to have produced small return so far. Of the 42 men who make up the Soviet team, 20 are holdovers from 1958. The Soviet team has strength where it had strength last year, but is no better in some field events and shorter runs. The Americans are developing international class in events like the hop, step and jump, long considered somewhat esoteric over here.
In any case, it would be wrong to assume that the U.S. and Soviet Russia between them are completely dominating the track and field world. There are some remarkably improved athletes in other European countries and Australia, as we shall be discovering at the Olympics next year.
The violent and often unbecoming effort implicit in track competition has made it unattractive to American women. If it weren't for a dedicated group of young ladies from Tennessee State we would be weak indeed; even weaker than we are.
A measure of the U.S. depth on the male side is that the loss of defending champions Rafer Johnson in the decathlon and Glenn Davis in the 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meter run affects the outcome very little.
American coaches just back from a Finnish meet report that the Russians have concealed their true strength, which seems a fairly unproductive stratagem. Said one Soviet official, mysteriously: "Wait and see what we do to you in Philadelphia."
He must have meant the women.