Jim Dunaway brings us perhaps the most unexpected news to emerge from a press conference in Paris 2003 Saint-Denis.
Yes, the rumours on the Internet about Edwin Moses are true: Moses is going to make a comeback in the 400m Hurdles. But no, he's not crazy. He still looks as fit as he looked when he set the world record at 47.02 in 1983 -- still the second fastest ever -- and he hasn't gained a pound.
This morning, on his 48th birthday, the two-time World champion, and 1976 and 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the 400m Hurdles announced here in Paris that he has already started training, with the objective of attaining the U.S. Olympic Trials standard of 50.50 seconds. And if he makes the standard he'll run in the Trials.
"I'm not planning a full-scale comeback," he said. "I don't plan on seeing Mr. Sanchez' back," he grinned, referring of course to Felix Sanchez, who won the 400 Hurdles here in 47.25, the eleventh fastest performance of all time.
"But I've always said I wanted to run senior athletics and be competitive. I'm not planning to run against world-class athletes; I know what that takes and I don't want to do that. At my age I'm not willing to train three times a day, do the physical therapy, run the cross-country and so on. But I never have lost the ability to hurdle."
He had plenty of that. From 1977 to 1987 he won 107 consecutive 400 hurdles races against the best in the world, almost all of them in big races - Olympics, Worlds, national championships, Olympic Trials, the European circuit. He never insisted on picking his opponents and avoiding people who might be good enough to challenge and perhaps beat him. I saw the first race in that string of 107 wins at the 1977 World Cup in Dusseldorf, and I saw the next-to-last one, in Princeton, New Jersey, in May, 1987. A couple of weeks later Danny Harris broke the streak at a race in Madrid.
That set up what many consider the single most exciting World Championships race ever -- including me. It was at the second World Championships, in Rome, September 1, 1987--sixteen years to the day when you are reading this.There was tremendous anticipation of the encounter between Moses, Harris and Germany's Harald Schmidt -- and the race lived up to it. They roared down the home straight in a virtual three-way tie, with Moses outleaning the other two by a few centimetres, 47.46 to 47.48 for Harris, second, and also for Schmidt in third. It seemed a lot closer, and what's more, every time I looked at the slo-mo replay of the finish it appeared as if a different one had finished first.
Sixteen years later at today's press conference, someone asked Moses if he thought he could run in the 47s again. He laughed. "For me to think about running 47 seconds is stupid. For me to run 50.5 seconds is realistic. I won't be a gladiator any more; I'll be an ex-gladiator."