I asked Valerie Brisco-Hooks if she was worried at all about going to the Goodwill Games in the Soviet Union, considering what has been happening there of late.
She knew what I meant.
“You mean the fact that I might come back and glow in the dark?” she asked.
Uh, yeah. Now that you mention it.
Brisco-Hooks nodded and said she was still planning to run in Moscow in July. But before that, she will compete in the Mobil/TAC meet June 19-21 in Oregon.
Then she and her coach will check into the Soviet radiation situation and see which way the wind is blowing.
“If it doesn’t get any better by the end of TAC, then we might consider not going,” she said. “A lot of people haven’t even considered going to Moscow, just because it is Moscow. A lot of people tell me they’re not going. I think it’s going to be a couple of Americans and mostly the Eastern Europeans.”
The woman who won three gold medals in the 1984 L.A. Olympics--and wants to win four in South Korea in 1988--has been busy lately, conditioning for this summer’s track itinerary, taking care of 4-year-old Alvin Hooks Jr. and guest-starring (as herself) on the season’s final episode of “The Cosby Show.”
Brisco-Hooks has no show-biz ambitions. “Acting is harder than track,” she said. “I’m going to leave acting to the actors.”
The only thing she leaves when she is running is opponents in her dust. Brisco-Hooks started warming up for this summer’s challenges by taking the 100- and 200-meter sprints in Saturday’s Pepsi Invitational at UCLA.
Running the 100 outdoors for the first time this year, Brisco-Hooks reeled off a time of 10.99 seconds--fastest for any woman in the world this year--for the eighth-best effort ever recorded. It was the first time she had ever run the 100 in under 11 seconds.
By the time the 200 came along, later in the day, Sonja Green from Nevada Las Vegas was the only one who felt like running with her. It was a two-woman race, and Brisco-Hooks took it easily.
Bob Kersee, her coach, told her before the 100 that he thought she was ready to do a 10.99. Brisco-Hooks, whose Olympic golds came in the 200 and 400, plus a relay, was not so sure of herself at that distance.
“I was so nervous. I came here today and said, ‘Oh, I don’t have enough time to get ready for this.’ And when I was on the (starting) line, I was scared. Normally, in a race, I’m not really scared at all, I’m more calm, because I know how to run the 200.
“For this, my blocks were all wrong, and I was running it all wrong. For me to hear the time, to hear I did 10.99, that was shocking. It was easy. I thought a 10.99 would hurt.”
Evelyn Ashford’s world record in the 100 is 10.76. Ashford was invited to the Pepsi race with $10,000 to the winner as bait, but she elected not to come. They will not meet until the TAC meet at the earliest.
Ashford recently did the same thing Brisco-Hooks did four years ago--had a baby. Together, they have become the fastest mothers the world has ever seen.
Ashford specializes in the 100 and 200 but is just now getting back into blue-ribbon shape. Brisco-Hooks, asked if she was sorry Ashford hadn’t accepted the challenge, replied: “Am I sorry? No, because looking at the 200 meters, it wouldn’t have been no race anyway.
“I think it’s best that Ashford doesn’t run early. I think she needs time to really get back into running, to get back her sharpness and her form. But that’s my opinion.”
Just after Mom Brisco-Hooks won the 100, she knelt near the finish line and called to her son to come to her. Alvin ran to hurdler Greg Foster, instead.
“OK, be that way,” Valerie called out, laughing.
It must not be easy mixing motherhood and a career, even when the career is going outside for a run. Fortunately, the track colony sometimes becomes one big day-care center. “Gregory is somebody he knows will play with him, and he knows I won’t, especially on meet days,” Valerie said, exaggerating a little about being all business.
The lady still has those legs that were as familiar to American TV viewers during the Olympics as Mary Lou Retton’s--long and taut, with thighs thick and hard as steel. She is built like a pair of pliers.
When Brisco-Hooks extends those legs, and herself, around a turn, she is a sight to behold. And the sight will be seen again at Seoul in 1988, if she has her way. “I want four Olympic gold medals. I want to either run the 100 or try another relay.”
Three won’t be enough next time?
“No-o-o,” Valerie said.
And by then, she hopes the gold medals around her neck are the only things around her that are glowing.