Swimmer Mark Spitz, in his pre-comeback days as a television commentator, made headlines in 1983 when he called the National Sports Festival a joke. It took less than 21 seconds for Evelyn Ashford and Calvin Smith to prove him wrong.
On a picture-perfect day at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, Ashford ran the 100 meters in 10.79 seconds to break the women's world record, only to be upstaged minutes later when Calvin Smith broke the men's 100-meter world record in 9.93.
"Somebody call Mark Spitz, will you?" said Dr. Evie Dennis, a U.S. Olympic Committee officer.
Ashford was particularly pleased to have taken the record (10.81) from her East German rival, Marlies Gohr, who had beaten her the week before in a dual meet at the Coliseum. When Ashford learned her time, she ran a victory lap and then collapsed, falling flat on her back and staring at the clear, blue sky.
"I was stunned," she said. "That's all I can say."
One year later, the anticipated rematch between Ashford and Gohr at the 1984 Summer Olympics failed to materialize because of an East German boycott. But they met again a few weeks after the Olympics at an invitational meet in Zurich, Switzerland, where Ashford not only won but broke her world record in 10.76. That record stood until 1988, when Florence Griffith Joyner ran 10.49.