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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Sporting immortal risks it all

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport at the Stade de France

As shock returns go, it is about as unlikely as they come.

Should Ed Moses achieve his goal of running at next summer's Olympics, his return would outrank even that of Lazarus in the all-time comeback stakes.

It was probably easier for Moses' Biblical namesake to part the Red Sea than it will be for the 400m hurdles legend to add a third Olympic gold to his collection.

Ed Moses flies over a hurdle at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
At his peak Moses was a stunning athlete

Moses will be 48 years old at next summer's Olympics, not far off twice the age of the man he would have to beat for gold, Felix Sanchez.

When Moses won his first Olympic title in Montreal in 1976, Sanchez hadn't even been conceived, let alone born.

Moses' last race was 14 years ago. Sure, he was once famously unbeaten in 122 consecutive races, stretching over a period of nine years, nine months and nine days. But that run came to an end in June 1987.

It is certainly true that 400m hurdling has not moved on since Moses' glory days. Sadly, neither has he.

He is at a stage in his life when he should be looking back on his achievements with fondness, not attempting to emulate them.

He still stands second on the all-time list. His best mark of 47.02secs has only ever been bettered by one man, Kevin Young. But he ran that time 20 years ago.

The danger of Moses' comeback is that he will simply show how mortal he is

At his best, Moses was a sporting wonder. "My slow is faster than most athletes' fast," he once said, and he was right.

Taking 13 strides between hurdles rather than the usual 14, he ate up the track like a starving man tucking into breakfast.

At Morehouse College in Atlanta he had majored in physics and engineering, and he applied the same precise scientific approach to his training.

So intense were his training sessions that he was known by rivals as the Bionic Man.

His desire to be the best was extraordinary. "I have the killer instinct," he admitted. "It's ego. When I'm on the track, I want to beat everyone.'"

Sadly, for those who want to remember him as the superstar he was at his peak, that desire has not dimmed with the passing years.

There should be no financial reason for Moses to need to return. He became athletics' first millionaire after successfully fighting the old amateur restrictions on what could and could not be earned from endorsements and race wins.

From left: Danny Harris, Ed Moses and Harald Schmid at the 1987 world championships in Rome
Moses (centre) is a double world and Olympic champion

Technically, this isn't even Moses' first comeback.

After retiring from athletics he tried his hand at bobsleigh with a little success, winning a World Cup bronze in 1990 and a year later coming seventh at the World Championships.

But that was when he was still a relatively young man.

Leroy Walker, US coach at the 1976 Olympics, greeted Moses' spectacular arrival on the hurdling scene by saying "We're in the rarefied presence of an immortal here".

The danger of Moses' comeback is that he will simply show how mortal he is after all.

Moses himself said when he first quit athletics: "In the years to come, people will understand the things I have accomplished and realise, 'Wow, this guy was really something. Nobody's ever going to do that again.'"

He was right. No-one ever will, least of all a man approaching his sixth decade.

Links to more World Athletics 2003 stories


Ed Moses
"I spent so many years doing track and field it just comes naturally"

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