Four-time Olympian Edwin Moses has come a long way since the days when he felt "totally unrecognized" as an athlete. Nowadays, Moses, 33, and the world-record holder in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at 47.02 seconds, is one of the most popular and widely recognized sports figures in the world.
A gold medalist in the 400 hurdles in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics--he was the overwhelming favorite in 1980, but the U.S. boycott kept him home--Moses ran up a 107-race winning streak that lasted nine years, nine months and nine days, from Aug. 26, 1977 to June 4, 1987.
Last September, in the Olympic Games at Seoul, South Korea, Moses was seeking his third Olympic gold medal, but finished third. He has not competed since, choosing instead to spend time working on a Master's degree in business administration as well as chairing the U.S. Olympic Committee's substance abuse research panel.
But Moses, who lives in Newport Beach with his wife, Myrella, says he's not ready to retire from competition yet.
Question: After more than 20 years, two gold medals and a world record, you've decided to continue competing. What's the motivation?
Answer: Well, I still know I can run, and the sport has been so good to me and I enjoy it so much, I don't see any reason to stop at this point. I still feel that I have some races to run.
Q: I take it you're asked that question a lot.
A: People figure it's about time to stop. But why, if you enjoy doing something.
Q: How about your peers?
A: Yeah . . . some of them are waiting for me to retire. (laughs)
Q: You set the world record six years ago, but you've said you think you can break it. What's it going to take to run under 47 seconds?
A: Just a good race. I think the competition level is to the point now where it's more possible than ever before. I saw that in Korea. I should have been way out in front, at least by three or four meters. I just had a bad day. I had one of my best training years last year, so there's really no reason for me not to continue at this point. In fact, it's more of a reason to continue. I don't think age has really been a factor because I've been in condition for all these years. I think it's been more of a factor in the other competitors' minds because, when they see someone with a lot of experience, they know he's going to put up a hard, tough race every time.
Q: You're considered the world's expert in your event. Are you still learning?
A: You always learn. You always have to make adjustments and adapt to what's going on in the race all the time. And I think my experience is greater than anybody's.
Q: Are there other aspects of your race--physical, mental, whatever--that you can pinpoint exactly where you need to improve?
A: A little bit of technique. I worked on that for the last two years, in fact I cleaned up a lot of things last year that previously I hadn't had a lot of time to work on. And physically, it's always a challenge because every year it's a whole different ballgame. You've got to start all over and get in shape.
I think now my main concern is to keep from having the kind of injuries that an athlete has at the later stages of their career. That's probably my biggest concern. I have a great physical therapist in Ken Yoshino (of Irvine) and a masseur, Rod Law. And I know enough about training not to go out and damage myself. I know when to stop and when to work harder.
Q: Are you still coaching yourself?
A: Yeah, there's no one else. I never had anyone teach me how to run hurdles. I probably did pretty well considering. Q: Many people make a big deal about age. Ever think of trying to be the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of track? Race for 10 more years?
A: Not 10 more years. It's a little bit different in track. You're in an individual sport and no one's going to hold up any mistakes you make. If you lose a time, you lose a time. If you make mistakes, you're the only one out there. It's a very high-performance sport; it's measured in hundredths of seconds. When you lose, there's no help coming. There's no one to back you up on defense (laughs).
Q: So you don't see yourself competing beyond 1992?
A: Well, Evelyn (Ashford, also a three-time Olympian) said she might go till '93. I don't know. It just depends what kind of condition I stay in. Hopefully, I'll be able to go for a longer time.
Q: At one time, you said you wanted to make the U.S. bobsledding team. Is that still a goal for you?
A: Yes. In fact, I was up in Iowa the week before last and talked to the people from bobsledding and now the plan has escalated to going to drivers' school in Austria.
Q: How'd that idea come about?