"Qu'il vente, qu'il pleuve ou qu'il fasse beau," said Gaston Roelants, the Belgian runner, "la victoire ne pourrait pas m'échapper." Which means, wind, rain or shine ain't nobody going to beat me. Roelants holds the world record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 20-km. and one-hour runs, and he was talking about the 55th International Cross-Country Championship, which he had won twice before and which this year was contested at a horse track outside Tunis. The 7.5-mile course was a dilly: nearly four loops of the track, interspersed with three forays through the infield—one diagonal and two figure eights—over a series of redoubtable mounds, hurdles and fences that are normally traversed by horses. On the day of the race it turned up shine, but the overconfident Roelants limped home 31st. He came a cropper when, almost halfway, he severely bruised his left heel leaping from a three-foot-high barrier. Appropriately, this left the race to Sergeant Mohamed Gammoudi of the Tunisian army, a silver medalist behind Billy Mills in the 10,000-meter run at the Tokyo Olympics. Cheered on by his countrymen, Gammoudi flung up his right arm 50 yards from the finish and, waving to the emotional crowd, beat Ron Hill of England to the tape.
Roelants (below) struggles over an infield barrier and (right) momentarily drops out of the race in order to massage his injured foot.
At the start, 107 runners representing 13 nations are off in a stampede. Favored Roelants is in the middle, Winner Gammoudi at far left.
Early in the race Ron Hill of England, which won the team title, leads the pack over the hurdles and across the flower-strewn infield.
Rapturous Gammoudi sports a beret embroidered with the date of the race as he is congratulated after winning in a splendid 35:25.4.