THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 9 : Phillips, Ex-UCLA Star, Upsets Moses in 400 Hurdles
Andre Phillips emerged from Edwin Moses’ shadow with a vengeance Sunday, stunning the 2-time gold-medalist in the final of the Olympic 400-meter intermediate hurdles.
Phillips, formerly of UCLA, never appeared challenged, winning in an Olympic-record time of 47.19 seconds, a personal best and the fastest time by any hurdler since Moses set the world record of 47.02 in 1983.
Second after the last of the 10 hurdles, Moses, his age showing for one of the few times in his brilliant career, faded and finished third behind the surprising Amadou Dia Ba of Senegal, who might have caught Phillips if the race had been 5 meters longer.
Ba ran 47.23 to Moses’ 47.56. Moses’ time was faster than he ran to win gold medals in 1976 in Montreal and in 1984 in Los Angeles. UCLA’s Kevin Young was fourth in 47.94. It was the first time that four men have run under 48 seconds in the intermediate hurdles.
For Moses, 33, it was only his third loss since 1977. His streak of 122 consecutive victories, including 107 in finals, was broken last year by American Danny Harris. He lost a second time last year when he fell during a race in Paris that was won by Ba, who had never run under 48.03 before Sunday.
Moses never has made his age an issue, not after the losing streak ended and not after he won his second world championship later last year by the narrowest of margins in Rome over West Germany’s Harald Schmid and Harris. It didn’t appear to be an issue when he easily beat Phillips and Young at the U.S. Olympic trials in July.
But he introduced the topic Sunday.
“I beat the odds by even being here, so I’m happy,” he said. “I knew I was up against the odds.”
He said, however, that he is not considering retirement.
“I’ve lost before and come back,” he said. “This was a big loss, but I’ll continue to compete. This was one of the best races in history. It was an amazing race.”
He certainly was up against a determined competitor in Phillips, 29, who has been one of the world’s best intermediate hurdlers for 7 years but has hardly been noticed in an event so dominated by Moses. Phillips was ill before the 1984 Olympic trials and finished fourth, failing to qualify for the team. He was injured last year and didn’t compete in the World Championships.
But he made the most of his moment Sunday.
After a long embrace with Ba, which later was joined briefly by Moses, Phillips ran a victory lap, shedding his shirt, shoes and socks along the way. He threw his shirt into the stands at the Olympic Stadium, which was filled almost to its capacity of 70,000 on Chusok, the South Korean version of Thanksgiving.
Moments before the victory ceremony, Phillips said that his eyes began to water.
That led to some good-natured kidding from Moses’ wife, Myrella.
Phillips and Moses, once close, have been less-than-friendly rivals in recent years. Seldom meeting on the track, each has accused the other of avoiding him.
But Phillips had nothing but kind words Sunday for Moses.
Phillips thanked his high school coach in San Jose, who has been training him this year; Bob Kersee, who helped him plot his strategy for the Olympics, and Moses.
“I’ve been chasing Edwin since 1979,” Phillips said. “Between 1976 and ’79, he was my idol. I watched him in Montreal, and I’ve been chasing him ever since.
“He was my motivation, my inspiration, my idol. I don’t think I’d have made it this far if he hadn’t been out there the last 15 years or so. He’s still the man to beat. He’ll still be my motivation and my inspiration to get out there and run.”
Moses is so accustomed to being the man to beat that he sat in the gold-medal winner’s chair when he entered the interview tent. He moved when Phillips arrived.
“I’m lucky to be here after 12 years of winning, 12 years of unprecedented pressure,” Moses said. “I’m just glad to be on the medal stand. I could have run better, but I didn’t. They ran their best possible race, and I didn’t. But that’s what the Olympics are all about.”