SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - August 4, 2020 - 12:00am

In any sport, an athlete almost always knows his closest rival. In the marathon for instance, a runner knows who are the seeded ones. In the 1976 Montreal Olympics, defending marathon champion Frank Shorter was primed to win his second consecutive gold medal after winning in Munich in 1972. Another factor was the absence of the East African runners who boycotted the Montreal Games to protest the Apartheid regime of South Africa.  Shorter also skipped the 10,000 meter run which was won by Finland’s Lasse Viren, another top seed in the marathon.  Other rated runners were Americans Bill Rodgers and Don Kardong.  As expected, Shorter took the lead and was looking for a sure victory until a completely unknown who looked like Carlos Lopes, the 1984 LA Olympics Marathon champ, overtook him. Shorter was puzzled because this pale-looking runner still looked fresh, no sign of fatigue or weariness when at this point of the race, a runner will start to slow down.  Shorter and the “mystery man” exchanged leads with the challenger, instead of slowing down, was getting stronger and surged ahead. By this time, Shorter’s rival opened a 100-meter lead.  Shorter summoned his last strength to close-in at 60 meters but the European just powered away, winning the gold in 2:09:55 while Shorter timed 2:10:45.  Only when the winner shook his hand that Shorter realized it wasn’t Carlos Lopes but Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany.  Although he conceded defeat, Shorter was suspicious about Cierpinski whose best time was 2:20 the year before.  

Confused at the finish, Cierpinski ran an extra lap and was shocked to find Shorter waiting to congratulate him as he crosses the finish line the second time.  In 2000, Shorter became the first chairman of the board of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.  Actually in 1998, Cierpinski’s name appeared in official documents chronicling the state-sponsored East German doping system.  Cierpinski refused to admit that he cheated and his gold medals from the 1976 and 1980 Olympic marathons still stand todate.  An East German scientist who defected to the US, admitted that East German athletes were administered performance-enhancing drugs.

All-comers record

In 1982, Waldemar Cierpinski won the All-Comers record of the first Manila International Marathon (MIM) in 2:14:00.  But if we stick to the rules, Cierpinski should have been disqualified for receiving water in not-designated water stations.  IAAF rules says that a runner must only take water every 2.5 kilometers.  Cierpinski, was also escorted by a horde of cyclists who sprayed water on him.  I became friends with Cierpinski when he came to the country together with Bill Rodgers.

Did you know?

•Frank Shorter’s Nike racing flats fell apart (the sole of his right shoe separated from the upper), while warming up for the 1976 Montreal Olympics Marathon, with the race starting in 30 minutes.  Luckily, Bruce Mc Donald, the USA team walking coach was in the area and was staying at the same suite as Shorter.  Shorter requested Mcdonald to get his spare shoes and who arrived five minutes before the start.  Shorter won the Munich Olympics Marathon in an Adidas and was still testing the new product Nike, originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports of Japan.  In the 1991 Sea Games Marathon in Manila, my protegé Herman Suizo’s PSC issued Asics running flats also fell apart in the 10km mark.  It was a good thing a runner with size 6.5 Adidas came to the rescue and lent Suizo the shoes.  Suizo won the marathon gold medal.

•Pippa Middleton, sister of Duchess Kate Middleton, finished the tough 2015 Great Wall of China Marathon in 4:54 placing 13th over-all in the women’s division.

NOTES:Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism said “One who is immune is immortal”.  With still no vaccine on sight to combat Covid-19, our best defense is to boost our Immune system. Lao Tzu also said “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop”. Some runners often make the mistake of going too fast in a marathon, so that he is bound to hit the wall in the last 10 kilometers.  But if you run slower, there’s a big possibility that you will finish the race (unless there’s a cut-off time).

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