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8th Mar, 2022, dbrewer

                                      Looking Back

The first ever World IAAF athletics Cup was held in Dusseldorf, West Germany on the 2-4 of September 1977 and, in some ways,  more exciting than the following one’s. Perhaps Dusseldorf does not quite stand up to the glamour of places like  Rome, Tokyo or Rio but still  the athletics  was intense. I was also at the 1994 World Cup, near my home in Crystal Palace and, have quite a bit to say about some of the African team that won the Men’s competition but, firstly it will be  1977. The event was split up into the following teams GDR; USA ;FRG (As the Hosts); Europe; Americas; Oceania and Asia. The 1977 competition was won by GDR Men/ Europa Women. In 1994 it was Africa Men and Europe Women were the winners.

1977 World Cup

Several performances stand out.  Irena Szewinska (Poland/EUR) won the women’s 200 in 22.72 and the 400 in 49.52. The  latter ahead of Marita Koch (GDR) who did 49.6. Popular Norwegian Greta Waitz, running for Europe, won the 3000 in 8:43. 5 beating the Olympic 1972 1500 Champion, Lyudmila Bragina  (URS/Russia) who ran 8:46.3 for second position.

Regarding the Men, there were a lot of interesting high quality middle distance runners taking part.

Ethiopian, Miruts Yifter ‘The Shifter’ who won the 5 & 10,000 in the 1980 Moscow Olympics won the  5 & 10, in Dusseldorf for Africa and in the 5000 the first 4 were high caliber runners. Yifter did 13:13.8; Marty Liquori, voted by the top American magazine Track &

Field News as No,1 in the World for that year over 5000) 2nd  13:15.1; Australian Dave Fitzsimons of Oceania was 3rd in 13:17.4 and 4th of 8 was Nick Rose of EUR /GBR) 13:20.4’

In athletics, as so often happens there is a changing of the guard at the pinnacle 0f World  athletics stardom. The Greatest miler of 1975 & 76 was 1976 Olympic Champion John Walker of New Zealand, who was the first man to run under 3:50 for a mile. Along came the fast improving Steve Ovett, Here in this one race the indicator was out for a new person to hit the top. Steve Ovett overtook John Walker and the man who came 2nd Thomas Wessinghage of FRG in the last ap when Ovett ran a 54.5, with a last 200 in 25.1. Ovett’s winning time was 3:34.5, a UK record with Thomas  Wessinghage of FRG in 3:36.0 and Jurgen Straub (2nd in Moscow) of GDR 3rd in 3:37.5. So, Steve Ovett, Coe and a little later Steve Cram, took the middle distance supremacy back from the .’Great’. New Zealanders.

            There was an almighty clash in the final straight of the World Cup 800 when the ‘Giant’; 1976 Olympic 400/800 Champion, Alberto Juantorena ‘White Lighting’ from Cuba came up against that ‘Great’ Kenyan Mike Boit, No 1 in the World in 1975. In Dusseldorf the 800 was won by the  Alberto Juantorena but only by a tenth. It was 1 Alberto Juantorna of AMER/Cuba 1:44.0; 2 Mike Boit Kenya and Africa 1:44.1 3 Willi Wulbeck (FRG) 1:45.5; Mike Boit. was a  close up third in the Olympic 800 in Munich in 1972 (1:46.01) but when he was training out in Kenya, less than a year before he was unable to run much faster than 1:49-He made a remark to me, showing great modesty, which fascinated me “ In the school in Kenya in 1971 Bruce Tulloh taught me. I remember Bruce telling me I was as good as anyone else in the 8oo and I couldn’t believe it.  I thought  he was probably trying to create some interest to make to make me keep going.! I ran cross-country with Bruce to build stamina . We were looking ahead to the Olympics of ‘72 but I was not quite sure. I did not think I was going to make the team as there were several runners better than me at that time” That showed what a great motivator Bruce was, with, his background of being a European Champion over 5000 in 1962.

              Edwin Moses had 122 400 hurdles races that he won outright, before being beaten by a fellow countryman Danny Harris. He had two very big rivals from Germany and they were 2nd and 3rd in the World Cup in 1977 1 Edwin Moses (USA) 47.58, 2 Volker Beck GDR 48:83; NS 3 Harald Schmid (Frg) 48:85 and 4th in that was European Champion of 74’ Alan Pascoe (Europe and GBR) 49:73.

What was Edwin Moses most satisfying  performance ?

I think the AAU at Los Angles, Westwood, when I broke the World record of 47.45, on the 11th of June 1977- It beat the record I had set in Montreal (Olympcis in 76), although it was not really a good race Knowing I had run that time under those conditions told me I was in terrific shape at the time. It gave me a sign which told me to keep going, as I could go under 47 seconds

Steve Williams was a Big Tommie Smith fan. And ran a World record  of 9.9 for 100m in the AAU Chamionships ahead of Don Quarrie, Reggie Jones, Ivory Crockett etc. Steve won  the AAA Championships 100 at Crystal Palace in 1974 in windy  conditions in 10.2 and that, was a where I met him for the first time. He was injured at the two Olympic which was a big blow and his consolation prize was winning the World Cup 100 in Dusseldorf for the United State in 10.13 2nd was Eugene Ray (GDR) 10.15; 3rd Silvio Leonard (Cuba/Americas) 10.19 and 4th Pietro Mennea (Italya/EUR0). In Dusseldorf Steve Williams was part of the World record winning USA 4x100 relay team that won in 38.03 and the team included Steve Williams, Steve Riddick, Cliff Wiley and Bill Collins)

Now for something completely  different that I asked Steve.What music did he like?                               “ I don’t go nowhere. without my music. I am pretty diversified with the music I like. Jazz, rock. Popular music. My knew kick is very strange electric sort of music. I like Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery.  I am a guitar freak. My favorite guitar player is Jimmy Hendrix. An Italian guy asked me  if I was to come back as somebody else, who would it be. I said I would come back as Jimmy Hendrix . I think that would be the life: making money playing the guitar.


Regards Alastair Aitken