Gone with the wind
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
"It's like a movie star, you see him, you like him, you're a fan, but you don't get that close," says Andre Phillips, 1988 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, about Edwin Moses on ESPN's SportsCentury show (Friday, February 12, 10:30 p.m. ET). Moses, winner of 122 consecutive 400-meter hurdles races (107 finals), was voted No. 47 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.
The Olympics in Montreal was Moses' first test on the international scene. The man who would have been his toughest competition, world record holder John Akii-Bua of Uganda, wasn't in the field because of an African boycott of the Olympics.
Moses got off to a slow start. But then it looked as if he kicked it into another gear down the back straight, passing the Soviet Union's Yevgeny Gavrilenko. Moses won by eight meters over teammate Mike Shine.
"The last 60 or 70 meters, I couldn't believe him," Shine said. "I didn't think anyone could pull away that fast."
Moses said, "I pushed hard on the last five hurdles. Anyone can run the first five, but what decides who wins a race is the last five. I'd planned to run a 47.5 today. I guess 47.6 isn't too bad."
No, it's not. His 47.64 broke Akii-Bua's world record by .18 seconds.
When the race ended, Moses and Shine embraced in a classic picture and then ran a victory lap, knocking over a couple of hurdles. "I'm glad I didn't do that during the race," Moses said.
ODDS AND ENDS
In high school, Moses was known as Shades.
Moses' first race in the 400-meter hurdles was in a heat of the Southern Conference tournament in 1975. He ran 52.0 seconds.
His next 400 came in the Florida Relays in March 1976, and he finished second in 50.1. He was fourth in the AAU championships in 48.99.
Moses won the 400 hurdles at the World Cup in 1977, '79 and '81.
He was strongly opposed to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics. "With this political situation, athletes are being used as a quasi-army," he said. "It's almost like the movie 'Rollerball.' The Olympics are being used as a substitute for war."
Moses said the boycott cost him "at least seven digits. Maybe not instantly, but things I would work with and develop for a long time."
In 1983, Moses won the 400 hurdles at the first World Championship in Helsinki despite his shoelace coming untied down the stretch, hitting the hurdles and his legs.
Though an amateur, Moses made a good living being a track star. For instance, in 1983, it was reported he earned more than $400,000. There were lucrative sponsorships from Kodak cameras, adidas, Kappa clothing, plus recently legalized appearance money.
He won the Sullivan Award as the top amateur U.S. athlete in 1983. The next year, he won the James Owens International Trophy as well as being named Sportsman of the Year by the USOC and Sports Illustrated.
At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Moses recited the athletes' Olympic oath at the opening ceremonies. He dedicated his victory in the 400 hurdles to his father, who had died the year before.
Moses believed he was working at a disadvantage by running against competitors who used steroids.
Though acquitted by a jury, Moses' image took a hit when he was charged with soliciting an act of prostitution from an undercover policewoman in L.A. in January 1985.
Moses married Myrella Bordt, a West German movie set and costume designer, on Memorial Day 1982 in Laguna Beach, Calif. She was an admitted track groupie. She was also very outgoing, and helped her husband break out of his shell. They divorced on the Fourth of July, 1991.
Moses failed to qualify for the 1992 U.S. Olympic bobsled team.