His Easter egg-purple sweatsuit cast aside, Dr. Rodion Gataullin of the U.S.S.R. stood at the end of the pole vault runway in Husky Stadium in Seattle regarding the pink crossbar set at the world-record height of 19'11¼". Gataullin had already won the event with a clearance at 19'5", crossing the bar so slowly that his outstretched arms seemed wings, he a descending archangel. Now 24,450 spectators stamped until the stadium vibrated, imploring Gataullin to break the 19'10½" world record of his countryman Sergei Bubka.
This Sunday evening throng had clearly come to join in, to sing, to learn, to lift and to be lifted. They had been presented with the sternest test imaginable, the 20-kilometer walk, which did not begin with a single lap and disappear outside the stadium as is customary. No, all 50 laps were covered on the red polyurethane track.
Goodwill isn't the word for what this crowd showed. Try saintliness. It adopted favorites and roared as they moved up. It stood and cheered the final laps of victor Ernesto Canto of Mexico and of every knotted, tottering soul behind him until the last was done.
Then it delighted in the discovery of one Scott Huffman of Quinter, Kans. Huffman may have created the Fosbury Flop of the vault. He plants the pole normally, but when he soars up to the bar he straddles it, much like pre-Fosbury high jumpers used to do, except that he is in the habit of actually touching the bar with his hand. When Huffman made 18'9¼" and dropped toward the pit pinwheeling and punching the air, he was an image of wild joy in eccentric motion. That height tied him for fourth, but if his style lets him live, he'll surely go higher.
July 29, 1990
At last, in the din, Gataullin ran, planted his pole and lifted off toward the record. And sailed under the bar. "I couldn't find the strength for the height," he said later. The setting may have been too informal. "The Goodwill Games are special because they're not really serious," he said. "I mean this is not, uh, official like the World Championships or Olympics. This is like a festival."
Jackie Joyner-Kersee feels a good deal more strongly about the Goodwill Games than Gataullin. She set a heptathlon world record of 7,148 points in the first version of these Games in 1986 in Moscow. Then she went on to complete the grand cycle, winning the Worlds in 1987 and the Olympics in 1988 with a record 7,291 points. Now she was beginning again, and the first of her seven events, a smoothly controlled 12.79 in the 100-meter hurdles, gave her hope that she could approach the record. But lapses in the 200 meters and the shot removed much chance of that, and Joyner-Kersee had to bend to the task of holding off Larisa Nikitina of the U.S.S.R., which on Monday night she did 6,783 to 6,236.
It was left to the shyest young woman in the meet to make the most of this rollicking occasion. Carlette Guidry, a senior at the University of Texas, had dragged the Longhorns to three NCAA indoor championships, yet she had never quite pulled herself into the top rank of open sprinters. What she pulled were hamstrings. Running the second leg of a 400-meter relay on April 7, in the Texas Relays, Guidry felt the back of her right thigh seize.
"She ran the whole 100 and tried to hand off," says Texas coach Terry Crawford. "We thought she'd torn her leg up so much we said, 'Forget the season.' "
But Guidry stayed positive and healed quickly. She took a place at the starting line Sunday evening when the field for the 100-meter sprint was called. Guidry started smoothly, passed 1984 Olympic champion Evelyn Ashford at 50 meters and bore down on Shiela Echols and 1990 TAC champ Michelle Finn. Ten meters out, she still hadn't passed them. "I felt the need to lean," said Guidry. She dived, almost going to the track after crossing the line, and won in 11.03, her best ever. Echols and Finn were both timed in 11.05.
"Our Miss Guidry has become world class," said Crawford.