Action Replay: Reynolds' resolve shatters 20-year record

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The world's finest athletes gathered at Zurich on 17 August, 1988 to warm up for the Seoul Olympics. Butch Reynolds, of the USA, had arrived to shatter a world record that had stood for almost 20 years. Neil Wilson witnessed a historic race and reported it for the Independent...

LEE EVANS' world record for the 400 metres will not celebrate its 20th anniversary in October. Butch Reynolds destroyed it here last night at these one-day Olympics the Swiss call, without exaggeration, the Weltklasse.

A record which had stood supreme, unchallenged, while all others were cut down by succeeding generations was put in its place finally by an awesome display of sprinting.

Reynolds, his lips drawn back in some terrible grimace, came home in 43.29sec, an incredible improvement of more than half a second on the record of 43.86sec which has defeated the assaults of two generations of great quarter-milers.

It is a performance which stands comparison with Ben Johnson's 100m record in Rome last year and Florence Griffith Joyner's in Indianapolis last month. Indeed, it may have surpassed both of them. Evans set his record in Mexico City, where the thin air at high altitude offered the sprinters less resistance. Reynolds enjoyed the warm, windless evening in a stadium filled with 25,000 screaming his name.

The 24-year old from Columbus, Ohio, had hinted at the possibility last year when he ran the fastest 400 at sea-level and again in the US trials last month when he became the second fastest behind Evans. Finally, everything played into his hands; the conditions, the field, the rival, Innocent Egbunike, who went off from the gun like a startled hare.

"I did it, I did it," he shouted back as the crowd raised their arms and voices towards him in thunderous salute. "Through all the setbacks in my life, I have been holding onto this dream, and tonight it happened for me."

Behind him came two more young Americans, Danny Everett in 44.20sec and Steve Lewis in 44.26sec, his partners in the Olympic team but, after last night, hardly his rivals.

Amid the celebrations, the fine performance of the Briton Derek Redmond was hardly noticed, but he too will leave here with new confidence. His pride had been hurt by his relegation to the B race but it was probably all the motivation he needed. He ran the second fastest 400m of his life to win in 44.67. It would have placed him fifth in Reynolds' race, the position he filled in World Championships.

UPDATE: Reynolds was unable to surpass his own time in Seoul and his record stands today. Michael Johnson has been widely tipped to set a new mark and was expected to make an attempt at next week's World Championships in Seville but injury has hampered his season and the record seems safe for the time being.

Ben Johnson won the 100metres gold medal in Seoul but returned to Canada in disgrace after a positive drug test.