THE ATHLETES THE DAZZLING DOZEN : They Were the Best of the Best, the Ones You Will Remember When the '84 Games Are Mostly a Blur

Times Staff Writer

Admit it. They dazzled you.

When the wrestler, Jeff Blatnick, broke down and cried, you cried. When Joan Benoit ran into the Coliseum and had a standing ovation from 92,000 all to herself, you were running right beside her. When Sebastian Coe sprinted to the tape in that great 1,500-meter final, you were there with him, looking over your shoulder at Steve Cram.

When Michael Gross cut through water with maybe the most beautiful stroke in the history of swimming, you were in the same lane, pulling away from the world. When Greg Louganis stood on the victory platform and they called him perfection, you wondered what it wouldbe like to be called perfect. And when Daley Thompson routed the field in the decathlon and they called him the world's greatest athlete, you rolled that over your tongue, too.

They were twelve. The Dazzling Dozen. Besides Benoit, Blatnick, Coe, Gross, Louganis, and Thompson, there were Mark Breland, Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Mary Lou Retton and Ecaterina Szabo.

In an Olympic Games of 24 sports for 7,800 athletes from 140 countries, theirs were the performances and the stories that eclipsed all others, the achievements that will be remembered the longest.

A year later, many are dazzling their accountants. Thompson had a screen test for a TV series. Breland went into pro boxing with the fattest contract in the history of the sport. Moses was commanding as much as $30,000 per appearance in European meets. In Fairmont, W. Va., there's a red Corvette that has "MARY LOU" plates and zips up and down Mary Lou Retton Blvd. We all know who the driver is.

And then there was Lewis. He was something special, but something different, too. Something was missing, it seemed. Were his gifts so great, so superior to his competition, that they submerged the human element of warmth?

Bob Mathias, former decathlon gold medalist, seemed to speak for many, when he said Lewis seemed "cold and calculating" on his way to duplicating Jesse Owens in winning four track and field gold medals.

But when Lewis finished, he'd done what he set out to do--win four golds. In the Olympics' modern era, Lewis and Owens stood alone.

Here's a look back, a year later, at The Dazzling Dozen:


Her name now is Mrs. Scott Samuelson, and while she greatly treasures the memory of her final moments on the Yellow Brick Road, in the Coliseum, she'd just as soon be out in her Maine woods, picking blackberries, working on her 100-year-old fixer-upper home, making blackberry jam in her fixer-upper kitchen, knitting sweaters and running on the dirt roads of a nearby island reachable only by boat.

In another time, Americans would by now probably have forgotten about Joan Benoit. But when orthopedists began perfecting arthroscopic surgery techniques on athletes in the mid-1970s, it would mean a gold medal for a 5-3, 105-pound woman from Maine in 1984.

She was a solid favorite for the women's Olympic marathon team trials at Olympia, Wash., last May. But in April, while on a 17-mile training run, her knee suddenly "shut down." She had to walk home that day.

The injury failed to respond to therapy and on April 25, exactly 17 days before the trials, she underwent arthroscopic repair of her right knee, involving cutting through the tight band of tissue behind the lining of the joint. Seventeen days later, she not only made the team but won the trials, although in a relatively slow 2:31.4. She ran stride for stride with Lisa Larsen for 12 miles, then broke away and was never challenged thereafter. Her knee never faltered.

At the Olympic Games, it was the same result, only faster.

"It was kind of like following the yellow brick road," she said afterward, seeming to be genuinely surprised at the breadth of her victory. "I don't know how to say this without sounding cocky, but it was a very easy run for me today. I was surprised I wasn't challenged at all. Nobody came with me."

Most surprising about Benoit's win--in 2:24.52, the third-fastest women's time ever--was the fact she left one of the event's great performers, Grete Waitz, nearly 600 yards behind. Waitz, from Norway, had never lost a marathon she'd finished.

Benoit, of course, had credentials, too. Americans had first seen her winning two Boston Marathons, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Her 1983 Boston win, the 2:22.43, was the fastest marathon ever by a woman.

But in Los Angeles, at the 13-mile mark on the Santa Monica-to-the-Coliseum course, Benoit surged to a 300-yard lead and built upon it throughout the remainder of the race. From that point on, the first Olympic women's marathon was a run for the silver.

Waitz, who said afterward she suffered from back pain in the race, smiled ruefully and said she knew all was lost at the 13-mile point. "We have an expression in Norway," she said. "It's 'I knew the train had already left.' "

The tall Waitz's long, graceful stride contrasted oddly to Benoit's plodding, somewhat splayed-feet stride. But she ran on, machine-like, virtually expressionless, past hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the streets. Once, her poker face cracked into a wide grin at roughly the halfway point, when she smiled at someone waving a black and white banner of Bowdoin College, her alma mater.

Then, at the end, came one of the Los Angeles Olympics' great moments--The Ovation.

She appeared as a tiny figure in a white hat, bouncing out of the dark Coliseum tunnel, into the sun. The cheers started softly, from those nearest the tunnel who spotted her first. But those first cheers quickly grew to a roaring, standing ovation from more than 80,000 as she took her final lap, alone.

She was about to become only the fifth American--man or woman--to win an Olympic gold medal in a race of more than 800 meters since 1908.

She took off her white cap, waved it at the crowd, and grinned. Section after section stood and cheered. She had this all to herself because she finished the final lap before Waitz emerged from the tunnel.

"The cheers out of the crowd were very uplifting when I entered the stadium," she said. "I don't know how to express it. It's something very, very special, something I've dreamed about, something that hasn't hit me yet. I can't believe I've won the marathon."

Since the Olympics, she still hasn't run another marathon. It's believed she's pointing for the New York City Marathon in October and considering the Boston Marathon in 1986. In shorter races, she's run out of the money. She's even lost her world record. Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen, fourth at the Olympics, broke Benoit's world record with a 2:21.06 this year.

But on Aug. 5, 1984, when women lined up to run an Olympic marathon for the first time, she earned the title, Marathon Woman.


Beating cancer, he said, wasn't much. Lots of people do that. But emotion? Emotion was too much. Blatnick was pinned by emotion.

Few will ever forget it. Blatnick, a minute or so after winning a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling,dissolving into tears in front of a TV camera. Here was a 248-pound hulk who'd just whipped a 275-pound Swedish shopkeeper for his medal, reduced to wracking sobs and tears.

It was socko TV, as they say.

Later, he was embarrassed.

"To tell you the truth, I felt a little bit embarrassed," he said the next day. "How would you feel if they showed you in such an emotionally excited state before 60 million people? But I'm not ashamed. That was exactly how I felt.

"Things happened quickly to me--I won the match, I walked off the mat, the crowd was deafening, a lot of thoughts and feeling started going through my mind . . . I was hyperventilating and I was trying to catch my wind. I wasthinking of so many close friends, my family, and my brother, Dave. I'd never wrestled in front of a crowd so emotional and all those things were too much for me to handle."

Blatnick, 27, downplayed all the attention his battle with hodgkin's disease had attracted. Less than two years prior to the Olympics, he'd undergone successful surgery and radiation treatment for hodgkin's disease.

"At no time did I feel my life was in danger and at no time did my doctor say my life was in danger," he said. "I think it's been a little sensational(ized). I feel cheated when cancer takes the headlines away. They've come a long way in terms of treatment for cancer and it isn't that big a deal to beat it."

So you dig a little deeper in the clipping file, looking for a clue for all the tears, and there it is. He won it for Dave, a brother who died in a 1977 motorcycle accident.

"I dedicated this win to my family and my friends and to my brother, Dave, who never got to see me reach my potential as a wrestler," he said.

On his way to winning the second medal ever won by an American in Greco-Roman wrestling (Steve Fraser, in the 198-pound division, won the first the night before), Blatnick upset Yugoslavia's Refik Memisevic in the first round, but lost to Greece's George Pozidis in the second round. When Memisevic defeated Pozidis, tie-breaker procedures put Blatnick into the final with the Swedish giant Thomas Johansson.

"That's the story of my life," Blatnick said. "Something sets me back and the Lord gives me another break."

A year later, Blatnick averages three to four paid speaking engagements a month for major corporations and he also speaks frequently as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society.


He came into the Olympics with the best record in the history of amateur boxing, 104-1. When he left, with a gold medal, it was 110-1. And when it was over, he was, indeed, dazzling. But it took awhile.

At first, no one chanted his name, there were no standing ovations and there were no electrifying moments in any of his six bouts. In fact, there were more than a few sneers and quite a few boos.

Perhaps, as in the case of Carl Lewis in track and field, the expectations were greater than the reality for Breland. In the buildup to the Olympic boxing tournament at the Sports Arena, boxing competition ticket buyers had read:

--That Breland's right hand was so powerful he had knocked out opponents while backing up.

--That Emanuel Steward, a trainer of pro champions, called Breland: "The most talented boxer I've ever worked with."

--That Breland was a physical marvel, a 6-3, 147-pounder with a reach only three inches shorter than Sonny Liston's.

So Breland, because he had the nerve not to knock everyone out in the Games, drew some boos. They were quite loud, in fact, the night of his third win, a dull decision over Romania's Rudel Obreja. As he walked around the ring to be interviewed by Howard Cosell, it got louder. Breland laughed it off.

"They boo the greatest," he said. "It just doesn't bother me."

After a heart-stopping moment in his first bout, Breland went through the Olympic tournament as if on cruise control.

In his first bout, his dream and the dream of his manager, Shelly Finkel, came within a whisker of going up in smoke. A go-for-broke Nova Scotian, Wayne Gordon, rocked Breland with a right to the jaw that buckled his knees. But Breland recovered, easily won that decision and two more before he finally knocked someone out.

He flattened Mexico's Genaro Leon in the quarterfinals, knocking him out in the first round with a big straight right. The memory is an enduring one: Breland, landing the punch, then stepping back to watch Genaro fold up and crumple to the mat. It was a little like Reggie Jackson at home plate, admiring one of his home runs in flight.

Finally, in the end, Breland left them cheering. In his gold medal bout with South Korea's An Young Su, Breland put on a masterful demonstration of boxing technique, completely outclassing a world-class opponent. One of the five judges gave Breland a seven-point spread, two had it by six and two others by five.

In something of a surprise, however, Breland didn't get the tournament's outstanding boxer award. Instead, it went to Paul Gonzales, the classy light-flyweight from East Los Angeles.

Currently, Breland is finishing up his first year of what amounts to a lifetime deal with ABC. According to Finkel, who is a New York rock promoter in addition to being Breland's manager, Breland's ABC deal is worth about $3 million, not counting a lifetime annuity that pays Breland a six-digit income for life, beginning at age 31.

There is a three-year deal with the Pony shoe firm and one-year contract with the Southland Corp.

As a pro, he's 7-0 and only now showing some of the thunder in his right hand nearly everyone predicted.

"Mark is just now starting to show us what we thought he'd be, a knockout puncher," Finkel said. "Lou (Lou Duva, his trainer) has slowed down his feet, reduced his motion and the knockouts are starting to come now."

In the category of Olympians turning pro, Finkel says Breland came in third in the money sweepstakes.

"From what I've read and from what I know, I'd say Mary Lou Retton got more than anyone. Michael Jordan would be next, and Mark third."


This one was friends and family, all the way. The way Brisco-Hooks tells it, the power of the love of friends and family translated into three gold medals.

After her daughter became the first woman to win three track and field gold medals since Wilma Rudolph in 1960, Guitherea Brisco said: "We gave up a lot of things we were all dedicated to the Games."

Items, from the Brisco family Olympic album (after you get past the part about her winning gold medals for the 200, 400 and 1,600-meter relay):

--Guitherea Brisco gave up her teacher's aide job at Locke High's math department to look after Valerie's two-year-old son, Alvin, Jr, while her daughter trained.

--Alvin Hooks, Brisco-Hooks' husband, a former NFL defensive back, also put in his share of baby- sitting hours, and many coaching hours, too.

--Valerie's coach, Bob Kersee, quit his job so he could coach her full time, along with several other Olympic athletes.

--Said a brother, Melvin Brisco: "Our family has always been special. It's like a dream come true for all of us."

And then there was the brother who would never see his little sister run in the Olympics, who never shared the ecstasy.

Robert Brisco was killed by a stray bullet while working out on the Locke High track, in 1974. When Valerie cried during one of her Olympic victory ceremonies, she told friends the tears were for Robert.

Brisco-Hooks, in addition to becoming the first woman to win the 200 and 400 in one Olympic Games, set Olympic and American records (21.81 and 48.83). And she ran the third leg on the winning United States 1,600-meter relay team.

Many times, she said afterward, she wanted to pack it in, but always, there were family and friends, propping her up in the down periods.

"I used to come home and break down and cry, and not work out," she said. "I didn't like the pain. I was really lazy, it was just hard for me to work out all the time. But having people behind me, that helped more than anything."


At the time, it was called a race of attrition. But a year later, the 1,500-meter final looks like a war, a group of men running for their lives.

First, the Brazilian, Joaquim Cruz, the 800-meter champion, scratched because of illness. Then the American, Steve Scott, ran like a crazy man the first two laps and predictably fell apart and finished 10th. Then Steve Ovett, a Briton, clutched his chest and fell. They carried him off on a stretcher. The punishing pace knocked out Spain's Jose Abascal, on the final turn.

Finally, there were only two. Into the stretch, sprinting for the gold medal, came two Brits, Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe.

Coe, the little Brit who looks more like a choir boy than a world-class runner, pounded his teammate into the track with no less than three memorable sprints.

When he breasted the tape, Coe had become the first ever to win the gold medal in the 1,500 in two Olympics. It was a memorable moment in British Olympic history. Some swore they heard refrains from the "Chariots of Fire" theme. But others, who listened to Cram after the race, heard about an athlete who refused to lose.

"I was beaten by a better athlete on this day," Cram said. "As we came around that final turn, I didn't think Seb had it in his legs, but he did. I didn't think I had it in my legs, either, and I didn't.

"My strategy was to get to the front sometime on that last lap. But Seb was just too much in control. He wouldn't let me pass him on the bend. When I couldn't get by him, I knew that unless his legs gave out, I wouldn't win it."

Said Coe: "That's was the best I've felt in the 1,500 since 1981."

Like Blatnick, the wrestler, Coe surmounted a serious illness to win his gold medal. His victory, before 90,861, came eight months since his first tentative jogging steps after a viral illness had hospitalized him.

Coe: "This time last year, I was lying in a hospital bed . . . I was just worrying about getting healthy again. I'm just pleased to be sitting here at an Olympic Games, even if I hadn't won a medal."

In 1983, Coe was losing races and feeling miserable. There was a persistent soreness in the armpits, near his lymph-gland systems. He entered a hospital near his home in Sheffield, England. There was surgery.

Doctors removed infected tissue that was diagnosed as glandular tosoplasmosis, a viral condition that can kill. It robs the body of the output of its energy systems. Even during the Olympics, Coe was still a hospital outpatient.

The illness didn't rob Coe of his business, acumen, however.

During the Games, there he was, at a Los Angeles shopping center book store, autographing copies of his book, "Running for Fitness."

In the end, most marked the race down as a tribute to a great runner's heart. He has his critics in the British press, but most concede he's the supreme competitor on race day.

The night before the 1980 final in the 1,500 meters in Moscow, someone asked Coe if he thought he could beat Ovett, who had then won 41 consecutive 1,500-meter races.

"Oh, I'm sure I can," he said, surprised at the question.

In Los Angeles, when he hit the tape for that second 1,500 gold medal, the world saw him turn and face the press section, eyes aflame. His face was angry and he made a defiant gesture. Most assumed he was addressing his critics in the British sporting press. But Coe, polite to the end, said afterward he was only acknowledging a group of fans from Chelsea.

Nonsense. Later, in England, Coe admitted that he was, indeed, giving British sportswriters their what-for. They said he couldn't do it. Don't put him on the team, they had written. But he won. And when he faced them, the defiance in his eyes warmed some hearts, too.


Somewhere in the Dazzling Dozen, you knew there'd be an oddball, a guy who didn't get along with his coaches, a guy who didn't like long workouts and said so. And he was stubborn, too.

Gross was the 6-6, 176-pound West German they called "The Albatross." The nickname was attributable to his 7-foot, 5-inch wingspan--a reach so wide he nearly touched both lane markers while winning a gold medal in the butterfly.

Insiders believed Gross won his two gold and two silver medals on sheer talent, that he may have trained significantly less than those he defeated.

Said U.S. swimmer Jeff Float: "Those arms are like giant rubber bands. He makes it look so easy. That's what's really sickening. It's like he's out for a morning stroll."

Even before the Olympics, Gross was recruited by several U.S. university swim coaches, but turned them all down. And when German swim coaches saw this Gross quote, they all but burst out laughing:

"I could never function under the pressure of their (U.S.) collegiate system, especially when the coach is a dictator. I believe in having a coach-athlete dialogue."

The rub is that many German coaches who'd worked with Gross weren't happy with the dialogue they were having with Gross.

Whatever, he was the dominant figure of the Olympic swimming competition. Gross, 21, won the 200 free (1:47.44) and 100 butterfly (53.08), both world records. He earned a silver in the 200-meter butterfly and another silver for a leg on West Germany's 800 freestyle relay team.

But the most exciting moment of the swim events occurred when The Albatross was overhauled by American Bruce Hayes on the last leg of the 800 free relay. Hayes, in his only appearance in the Olympics, started with a slight lead on his anchor leg, but Gross caught up and took a slight lead midway through the final leg.

Hayes, however, edged back in front in the last 20 yards to win it, touching off a huge "USA! USA!" demonstration in the stands.

Gross: "I simply didn't have any more to give. I just ran out of gas. My time was 1:46.9. How much faster do I have to swim? That was really a hot race."

Gross' stubborn streak flared in an interview session after one of his races, when he insisted on answering questions in German and using an interpreter. He speaks excellent English.

"Michael, why will you not share with us your excellent English?" one reporter called out.

Answering in German, Gross replied: "Because I am not used to having such turmoil and attention. I am trying to keep back with that."

German reporters smiled knowingly. They remembered 1982, when Gross was voted West Germany's sportsman of the year. A banquet was scheduled in his honor. But Gross, spurning all pleas, refused to attend. He had a club swim meet that day, he said.

U.S. Coach Mark Schubert, who runs the swimming factory at Mission Viejo, had Gross in his program at Mission Viejo in 1983, during an exchange program with Gross' club, at Frankfurt.

Schubert: "He doesn't like long American workouts. In fact, he doesn't even like long German workouts. Where some of our kids swim 20,000 meters a day, he averages maybe 7,000 to 8,000. He marches to his own drummer.

"But of course, if everyone here had that kind of talent, maybe they wouldn't have to swim much, either. I saw him set a world record in the 200 fly in Rome and I thought he died a little at the end. If he improves his endurance, he could take two seconds off his world record. And that's scary."


In the aftermath, there were two Carl Lewises, it seemed.

There was the magnificent athlete who won the 100 in 9.99, the 200 in 19.80, the long jump at 29- 1/2 and anchored a world record 400-meter relay in 8.94.

There's no other way to put it. He blew everyone off the track. And yes, he was better than Jesse Owens. Much better.

But, as Jim Murray, Times columnist, wrote: "Two guys will be standing at a bar some day and one will wonder, "Say, what's the name of that guy who tied all of Jesse Owens' records in the Olympics that time? 'Earl' something, wasn't it?"

You look for Carl Lewis, behind the gold, the oversize sunglasses with the red rims, the sleeveless turquoise T-shirts with the side slits, the oversize white shorts or the second-skin warmup suits.

You look, but you can't find him. You couldn't miss him on the track. But when everyone was assembled in the interview tent, after he won the 100, they passed out printed statements.

Here's a guy who once charged a track promoter $1,000 to show up at a news conference.

Carl wanted you to have something you'd remember him by. So he posed for a sculptor, had 1,000, 18-inch-high statuettes of himself made up and put them on sale--for $3,750 each. Signed by Carl, too.

You look for his teammates, to see if they really know Carl Lewis. Two weeks before the Games, in Berkeley, the U.S. 400-meter relay team was told to compete in a warmup meet. Well, three members of the team were, anyway.

Griped team member Calvin Smith: "As a member of a team, you sometimes have to give up other things and come together as a team. That's part of being a team."

When the record-breaking 1,600-meter relay team appeared in the interview area, the first two questions were addressed to other team members, asking them to evaluate Lewis' performance. At that, Sam Graddy rose to his feet and walked out.

"I'm tired of being made to feel less than Carl," he said. "I've got my reasons, but I don't want to talk about them."

There isn't anything Carl Lewis can't do. He could even play in the NFL. Just ask him.

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted him on a low round a couple of years ago, Carl said he could be an all-pro with Dallas, even though he's never played football.

You didn't need the Olympics to see how Lewis would do. You could've watched the U.S. Olympic trials at the Coliseum. There, Lewis not only defeated what experts called a better 100 field than he faced in the Olympics, they called it one of the strongest 100 fields in history.

There was Calvin Smith, the world record-holder (9.93), Mel Lattany, Ron Brown, Sam Graddy, Harvey Glance and Emmit King. Lewis, running into a wind just over the allowable, won by four or five yards, in 10.06.

You want world records? He'll probably get more of those, too. He'll probably even get that 30-foot long jump.

At the Olympics, on the track, Lewis was a marvel. Having equaled Owens in Olympic hardware, only the test of longevity bars his path to recognition as his sport's greatest-ever performer. And really, he's there now. Among sprinters, only Bobby Morrow and Bob Hayes were ranked No. 1 in the 100 for three years in a row. In 1984, Carl made it four straight years.

A year later, if anything, the distance both Carl Lewises seemed to be putting between themselves and the rest of the world was, if anything, increasing.


Perfect, they called him. Could not have been better. The best ever. Incomparable.

Louganis became the first American in 56 years to win both 3- and 10-meter diving gold medals. And he made it look easy. Heck, it was easy.

In the 10 meter, not only did he lead 12 qualifiers into the finals, but he scored the highest point total in the history of the sport, 688.05. But in the finals, he was much better.

In the finals of the 10 meter, he overwhelmed not only all opposition, but the judges as well. He became the first to break 700 in scoring, recording 710.91.

When it was over, there were only accolades for the 25-year-old former dance major from UC Irvine.

Dick Kimball, a U.S. diving coach: "He's the best diver of all time. Klaus Dibiasi was a great, great diver, but Greg is much better."

Sammy Lee, a U.S. coach and former two-time Olympic diving champion: "I've been around diving 52 years and there's no comparison between Greg and all the others."

Ron O'Brien, Louganis' coach: "If someone else scores a 10, it's unusual. If Greg goes without 10s, that's unusual."

Todd Smith, a former Louganis coach: "Most divers are power or stylish divers. Greg is both."

In 1982, Louganis was worried he might never dive again. In a UCI-Cal State Northridge event in Northridge, he struck the bottom of the pool with his left arm, jamming and injuring his shoulder.

The pain, he said later, was "unbearable." He had surgery on the shoulder to repair a partial dislocation. He was so worried about the shoulder, he refused to discuss the injury during a 1982 interview.

Most diving experts say that, in addition to exceptional athletic gifts, Louganis is aided by great leaping ability. The story is frequently told of a roof modification job done at the Olympic diving facility in Colorado Springs, to give divers three more feet of head room.

When it was completed, Louganis, who has a 33-inch vertical leap to start with, leaped up off the 10-meter platform and put his arm through the open skylight.

O'Brien: "His strength enables him to leap higher than most others. That gives him more margin for error, to make adjustments while he's in the air."


Score one for brains. The story goes something like this. A seven-year-old in Dayton, Ohio, reads an entire children's encyclopedia, from A through Z. A few years later, he builds and launches rockets in his back yard. He wins a National Science Foundation award for a high school chemistry project. He wins an academic scholarship as a National Merit Scholar.

Young man goes to Moorehouse College in Atlanta and earns two degrees, in engineering and physics. As recently as last year, he was a pre-med student at UC Irvine.

Oh, yes--Edwin Moses is also the greatest 400-meter hurdler who ever lived. He proved it, if anyone still wasn't convinced, when he won his second Olympic championship (He won it in 1976, too).

Moses doesn't have a coach. Instead, he has scientists and technicians advising him. Some say he's the first of what will be a wave of technocrat-athletes to make their mark in track and field.

Moses won his gold medal on high tech shoes, studded with computer-perfected spikes. In workouts, he ran with straps on his chest connected to an electronic device connected to his wristwatch that monitored his heartbeat, telling him when his body needed rest and when it was ready to handle more stress.

At night, he reviewed results on a home computer and plotted on a graph ways to improve his next day's workout.

So what was a smart guy like Edwin Moses doing driving a Mercedes Benz with OLYMPYN plates, riding on Sunset Boulevard at 3:15 a.m., five months after the Olympics?

The Los Angeles Police Department said he solicited an act of prostitution with a female undercover officer, and filed charges. A month later, a jury found him not guilty. Shortly afterward, he told the Washington Post his defense cost him $100,000.

When he won his Olympic gold medal in the final, it was Moses' 105th consecutive victory, including preliminary races, one of track and field's great streaks. He hasn't lost a race since 1977. And after he won the final, in 47.75, someone asked what it was like, dealing with the streak.

"It's like going to your execution 15 times a year," he said.

So dominating was Moses at the Olympics that there was talk of his maybe becoming the first man to go under 47 seconds in the event. Perspective: Only four men have ever broken 48 seconds, and Moses has done it 28 times.

There was an indication at the Olympics that Moses' event is about to become more competitive. In fact, when Moses looked over his shoulder, he may have seen the event's future, Danny Harris.

Harris, who ran 48.11 and won the silver medal, is only 19. Before the Games, Harris, from Perris, Calif., and Iowa State University, where he plays football, had run the event less than a dozen times.

But a year after the Olympics, Moses was still undefeated since 1977 and still the event's master performer.


It was the strangest looking combination of the Olympics, if not the most successful.

One, the gymnast, they called Little Body. She came into your life at 4-9, 94 pounds and with seemingly enough teeth for two people. And that smile. It lit up continents. Of course, you can have too much of just about anything, as the Wheaties people are showing us over and over again with that commercial.

The other, the coach, looked and sounded like a creature from a Boris Karloff movie. He leaned over a barricade throughout, pop-eyed, with a leering, scowling gaze and a drooping moustache. With Bela Karolyi, Retton's coach, security people looked twice.

Writers had a field day with the tiny Retton. Coast to coast teeth. Wears cigar bands for bracelets. Does her floor exercise routine in the palm of your hand.

When it ended, Mary Lou Retton had done far more than become the first U.S. woman (girl, really. She was 16) to win an Olympic medal of any kind in gymastics. When she came pounding down the runway and hit that 10 off the vault, she scored a 10 with tens of thousands of mothers of little daughters everywhere, too.

Karolyi, who discovered Nadia Comaneci and had started on Romania's other phenom, Ecaterina Szabo, before defecting to the United States a few years ago, said it himself in explaining why he was in a hurry to leave Los Angeles to get home to his gym in Houston after the Olympics:

"Tomorrow," he said, "little Mary Lou Rettons will be walking into gyms all over the country."

Several months after the Olympics, the Denver Post's Buddy Martin surveyed some gyms and found a great surge of enrollments of little girls. One father, he reported, called a Denver gym and came right to the point about his 7-year-old:

"How long," he asked, "will it take her to get to the Olympics?"

By late September, 1984, Karolyi had registered 600 youngsters in his Houston gym, twice the normal amount. Retton's first coach, Gary Rafaloski, in Fairmont, W. Va., had 450 signed up and 300 on a waiting list.

For Mary Lou Retton, of course, the money train hasn't stopped yet. Her agent, John Traetta, said Retton had received more than 70 endorsement contract offers shortly after the Games.

Vidal Sassoon announced last December that Retton's "Performer Q-rating," a popularity score rated by a marketing firm, had rated Retton a whopping 53, compared to Brooke Shields' 13. Retton signed a contract with Sassoon.

By November, she was getting $8,000 per appearance for shopping mall autograph sessions.


A year later, it may be a stunner for some to know that another female gymnast at the Olympics won four times as many gold medals as Mary Lou Retton.

Szabo, an international gymnastics star before anyone ever heard of you-know-who, won golds in floor exercise (Retton third), the vault (Retton second), team (USA second), and the balance beam (tying with teammate Simone Pauca).

The difference is, the all-around, Retton's gold medal, carries more weight than Szabo's events. And Retton won the all-around at an American Olympics.

But in Romania, the small Balkan East Bloc nation that defied the Soviet Union-inspired boycott of the Los Angeles Games, the little sad-eyed Szabo returned home a heroine. There was unprecedented newspaper coverage of the Olympics in Romania. Romania came in third in total medals won, behind the United States and West Germany. Normally dull, staid Romanian papers had front page coverage of the Games and pictures of athletes like Szabo placed in sections of the paper normally reserved for political figures.

Many gymnastics coaches and other experts rated Szabo a superior all-around gymnast to Retton, although not in Retton's class as a tumbler. Szabo, in her free exercise routine, was near-flawless. Judges gave Szabo a 19.975 and her third gold medal. Retton got a 19.775 and a bronze.


In the Olympics, you had to call two Brits, Coe and decathlete Daley Thompson, co-winners on the confidence-meter readings.

Here's what Thompson said when someone asked him shortly before the Games how sure he was he'd defeat his rival, West German Jurgen Hingsen: "The only way he will get a gold medal is either to steal mine or win another event."

Many hoped for an epic battle between these two, for the "World's Greatest Athlete" title. But the form chart held up. Hingsen came into the Olympics 0-for-5 against Thompson and left 0-for-6. Thompson, like Coe, won his event for the second straight Olympics and joined Bob Mathias as the only man ever to win the Olympic decathlon twice.

Thompson, a Richard Pryor-lookalike, won big, 8,797 points to 8,673. He fell one point short of Hingsen's world record, but has at least four years to get that one. Immediately afterward, he talked of competing again in Seoul, in 1988, and making it three in a row.

After Thompson set a first-day record of 4,633 points, he put the 6-7 Hingsen away in the pole vault. Thompson cleared 16-4 3/4 and Hingsen fell apart, clearing only 14-9. The point spread in that event alone was 120 points.

Psychologically, he may have put the German away with his first two second-day events. His 100 was a 10.44, equaling his lifetime best, and his long jump was a personal best 26-3 1/2, a distance that would have placed him fifth in the open long jump.

He went into the decathlon's final event, the 1,500, needing a 4:34.8 to break Hingsen's record but instead clocked a 4:35.0.

Like Edwin Moses, Thompson owns his event. He hasn't lost since 1979. In Los Angeles, he surpassed his Moscow (8,495) marks in 9 of 10 events, falling short only in the high jump, 6-9 3/4 to 6-8. Hingsen had the better mark in half the events, but Thompson's margins were greater.

In the end, Thompson had everything but Hingsen's world record--Olympic Champion, World Champion, Commonwealth Champion and European Champion.

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