Carl Lewis knew it was fast, but not how fast. He had caught Lee McRae of Pitt at 80 meters and won his fourth national 100-meter title going away. As he reached the finish line, he shot an arm up in salute to the crowd at the USA/Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., but his expression was intently solemn, almost severe. He turned and strode toward the start.
"I was buzzing," Lewis would say later. "It had been really fast, but I didn't know about the wind." Greg Foster, who 50 minutes earlier on Friday had won the 110-meter hurdles in 13.26, called to him that the wind was legal. "I exploded with excitement," said Lewis. "It was a return of the intensity I had in the '84 trials and Olympics. I felt as if I were 'not human' again, the way I was when people called me a robot."
Lewis's time was 9.91. Calvin Smith's world record is 9.93. But Foster had been wrong; the aiding wind in the 100 was 4.48 meters per second, more than twice the allowable 2.00. Lewis still did not have his first individual world record (he has anchored two 400-meter relay records), but his time equaled the fourth-fastest under any conditions.
Barely 15 minutes later, Lewis moved briskly on to the long jump, which he won at 28'5½". He needed every inch to stay ahead of Mike Conley's 28'3¾", a mark that gave Conley the dubious honor of becoming the first man ever to jump 28 feet and lose. Conley knows all about such things. Last year in this meet he became the first man to triple jump 58 feet and be beaten, when Willie Banks hit his world-record 58'11½".
June 29, 1986
Nor was Conley finished with the bittersweet in Eugene. On Saturday, he triple jumped a wind-aided 58'6½", completing the best combination long jump-triple jump performance in history. And damned if he didn't lose again, this time to Charlie Simpkins's prodigious 58'9¼", also wind-aided.
"I am so happy that Mike got all tired out yesterday," said Simpkins.
"And he'll tell me about it," said the brave, patient, smiling Conley after the triple jump. "This puts me in an awkward position. Do I hang my head? No, because I did great. Do I feel wonderful? No, because I lost twice." Conley must have experienced the precise opposite of Lewis's sense of invulnerability.
But Lewis overreached. On Saturday, he found himself in a 200-meter final that he had decided to run only four days before. "I figured, what the heck. My training for the 100 was encouraging, so why not do the 200? That was before I was aware of the turns on this track."
The University of Oregon's Stevenson Track has 110-meter straightaways and tight 90-meter turns. That means the first half of a 200 is run on a sharper than usual curve. The difficulty is most apparent in the inside lanes, and Lewis was in one of them—lane 3.
He started well, so well that as he neared the end of the curve he had to ease back to stay in his lane. "If you're a guy like me, 6'2", with a 36-inch inseam [and if you happen to be sprinting at 22 mph], you've got to cut your stride to get out of those turns."
As he did so, Lewis was passed by Floyd Heard, a Texas A & M freshman who had won the NCAA 200 championship two weeks earlier. Heard is compact and fast, and smart. Once in front, in lane 5, he knew the race was his to keep or toss away. He was composed to the finish, winning in a wind-aided 20.03. "I knew Carl was tired from the 100 and the long jump yesterday," Heard said. "But when I hit the line, chills went through me at what I had done."
Lewis was fourth, in 20.30 behind Dwayne Evans and Kirk Baptiste. He was far from crestfallen. Indeed, his crest seems held in place with epoxy. (Moreover, Lewis has a tiny clock that has a tiny flip-up mirror and can be transformed into a tiny robot. Observers of symbol will no doubt find in the watch proof of both narcissism and chameleonism.) "Inhuman no more," he said. "But seriously, it's satisfying when people feel I'm a normal guy who has had to work hard to get back to the top after some losses. An atrocious race like this is good for me. I'll do better. And people will understand now that I'm not a robot."
Pam Marshall probably will never chafe under that label. But after a long, lackadaisical career, she at last revealed what her immense talent can do when accompanied by training. On Friday she dramatically blasted past Olympic champion Evelyn Ashford and Alice Brown in the last 20 meters to win the women's 100 in 10.80. That stellar time (Ashford's world record is 10.76), although helped by a 2.87 meters-per-second wind, served to announce a new world-class sprinter. It didn't hurt that the next day she won the 200 by four yards over Randy Givens in a windy 22.24. "Had a little stiffness after the 100, or I could have gone really fast," Marshall said.
She is 25 years old and showed potential as long ago as 1978 at Jordan High School in Long Beach, when she dueled on fairly even terms with one Valerie Brisco of Locke High in L.A. Both women then enrolled at Cal State-Northridge, where the head coach was Chuck DeBus and the assistant was Bob Kersee. Brisco promptly flunked out, and Marshall quit school to have a baby, LaTanya, now seven.
Brisco's story is well known. She married football player Alvin Hooks, had a baby, then was coached by Kersee to three Olympic gold medals in 1984. Not long after that, DeBus, who now coaches the Mazda Track Club in Los Angeles, got a telephone call. "That could have been me," said Marshall, referring to Brisco-Hooks's Olympic achievement.
"Only if you work," said DeBus. Marshall pledged she would, and he began a two-year overhaul.
Lord, has Marshall worked. "When I'm really rolling, it feels effortless," she says. "It seems I can just go and go." She won the 400 in the Pepsi meet in 49.99 and was thought of as a quarter-miler coming into the nationals. "Now I don't know which event is my best," she says.
"She's been a Valerie, sitting there all these years," says DeBus. "She is definitely capable of running a 47-second quarter mile." The finest women's running record of them all is East Germany's Marita Koch's 400-meter time of 47.60, so DeBus has placed Marshall in splendid company. And now that she has a taste of winning big, the best seems yet to come.
"Seconds and thirds don't open doors for you," Marshall says.
Carl Lewis would agree, of course, but he might add that an occasional second or third place need not slam the doors shut. "When I was young," he said, watching as his sister Carol won the long jump on her last attempt, 22'9", "I wanted total dominance of everything I entered. Now I think more of getting the most from myself at well-chosen times." He happened to say this while fooling with his clock, switching it from a robot to a mirror to a clock again. It seems clear: Though he still needs the mirror, the robot stuff is over.