Young hurdles Moses, record American sets world mark of 46.78 in 400-meter event

August 07, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA,SPAIN — BARCELONA, Spain -- Kevin Young didn't try out for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team because he was trying to earn enough money to go to UCLA.

He was a hurdler, among the best in America. But the child of Watts in Los Angeles was on the outside looking in when Edwin Moses won his second gold medal.

Last night, though, Young was at the center of the 1992 Summer Olympics. He came roaring off the curve, kicked one last hurdle, raised his right index finger in triumph and smashed Moses' nine-year-old world record to win the men's 400-meter intermediate hurdles.

Young was the first man ever to run the race under 47 seconds, finishing in 46.78 to better Moses' record by .24 of a second.

And to think, the handwriting was on the wall.

Young and men's 400-meter champion Quincy Watts shared an apartment at the Olympic athletes' village. And before their races, both gold medalists wrote their times on a wall.

Young scribbled, "46.89." But he was faster. A lot faster.

And had he not celebrated five meters from the finish, he could have lowered the mark by another 10th of a second. But he didn't care. Finally, after years of racing in Moses' shadow, he emerged as an Olympic champion.

"I didn't know if I had the record," Young said. "But I knew I had the medal. I came off the 10th hurdle after clobbering it. I didn't hear anything but the crowd. I put my hand up, No. 1, as the victor. That's something I always wanted to do."

Young wasn't the only American runner to pick off a gold. One night after missing Pietro Mennea's 13-year-old world record of 19.72 by .01 of a second, Mike Marsh won the 200 meters final.

But the sprinter who trains with Carl Lewis' Santa Monica Track Club in Houston failed to get the world record. Instead, he finished in 20.01.

Frank Fredericks of Namibia was second in 20.13, and third in 20.38 was Michael Bates of Tucson, Ariz., a former University of Arizona football player who was picked in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

"I put a lot of years into this and it has finally paid off," Marsh said. "I didn't run as fast as I would have liked, but I got the gold medal, and that's the most important thing. After my 19.73 in the semifinal, I thought I could break the world record in the final. But I guess I was more tired than I thought."

Young was far from tired. He was ecstatic, winning the 400 hurdles by nearly a second. Winthrop Graham of Jamaica took the silver in 47.66 and Kriss Akabusi of Great Britain won the bronze in 47.82.

"I feel happy and very grateful," said Young, fourth in the 1988 Olympic final. "I'd like to thank my coach."

Young's coach is UCLA assistant John Smith, a former #i quarter-miler who also guided the career of "I'm fortunate Edwin Moses did what he did with the hurdles.Young's Olympic roommate, Watts. In Wednesday's 400-meter final, Watts set an Olympic record of 43.50.

Smith said of Young: "The goal this year always was to have him be the first under 47 seconds."

Mission accomplished, Young stepped up on the victory podium wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap, turned backward.

He also cried. And, he thanked Moses, for being his inspiration.

"I'm fortunate Edwin Moses did what he did with the hurdles," Young said. "Without him our race wouldn't be in the sun."

But despite Moses' retirement, the 400 remains an event dominated by Americans.

"Am I going to keep the dominance of the Americans in the hurdles?" Young said. "I don't know. But I will keep the dominance for Kevin Young."

Young's record brought this reaction from U.S. Olympic coach Mel Rosen: "The greatest thing I've ever seen in track and field.

"I walked out of Tokyo after the 100 meters saying the same thing, but when a guy smashes Edwin Moses' record by almost .3 of a second, that's even more unbelievable," Rosen said, referring to Carl Lewis' world record in the 100 meters in Tokyo last year.

Last night, the man who once gave up an Olympic dream to pay for college finally got his gold.

"I never knew what it felt like to run 47.5 seconds," Young said. "I was always the guy in the back. But I knew it was just a matter of time before I got in the front."

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