John Akii-Bua, Judith Ayaa, Steve Prefontaine: US-USSR-World All-Stars Track-Field Meet at Berkeley

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The US-USSR-World All-Stars Track and Field Meet took place on Saturday, July 3rd 1971, in Berkeley at the Edwards Stadium of University of California.

Very recently, on May 30th 1971, John Akii-Bua had commendably reduced the 400 meters-hurdles African record to 49.7 seconds in Kampala, and thereby gained a reasonably significant level of attention. But there was some skepticism about the timing and the track conditions, given that the event was contested on a somewhat unknown and unrecognized African track. Nevertheless, in Berkeley, 21 year-old policeman Akii was considered a major contender for the gold medal. The other two favorites were Wes Williams who was regarded as USA’s top contenders, and Russia’s Vyacheslav Skomorokhov. Williams had at the recent national AAU championships finished second in the 440 yards-hurdles (which is four yards longer than the metric lap) in an impressive 49.3; while Skomorokhov who finished fifth in the foregone 1968 Olympics had a 49.1 personal best in the intermediate hurdles.

Eventually, Akii-Bua of Uganda, representing the World, won (50.1), second was University of Washington’s Jim Seymour (USA) in 50.5, Roger Johnson (World) was third (50.9), Vyacheslav Skomorokhov (USSR) was fourth (50.9), fifth was Wes Williams (51.0) of USA, followed by Yuriy Zorin (USSR) in 53.3.

Akii-Bua’s remarks are mentioned (AP 1971: 19).

„I have been practicing hurdles with both… right… and left leg. I think those who hurdle with only one leg aren’t versatile enough… I don’t have any set plan to run so many steps in between the hurdles. I just go over them when I get there.“

In the men’s 4x400m relay the USA team (Edesel Garrison, Frederick Newhouse, Tommie Turner, Darwin Bond) triumphed (3:02.9); the World’s team (Alfred Daley, John Akii-Bua, Laighton Priestley, Garth Case) was second (3:08.4); while the USSR team (Boris Savchuk, Yuriy Zorin, Dimitriy Stuklaov, Semyon Kocher) was last.

Judith Ayaa of Uganda, representing the World, participated in the women’s 4x400m relay. This time, the USSR team won (3:36.0). The Soviet runners were Lyudmila Findgenova, Lyudmila Aksenova, Natalya Chistyakova, and Nadyezhda Kolesnikova. Second an in 3:38.1 was the USA team (Esther Stroy, Gwen Norman, Cheryl Toussaint, and Jarvis Scott). Finishing third in 3:44.1 was the World all-Stars team of Ayaa, Penny Werther, Allison Ross-Edwards, and Yvonne Sanders.

Major highlights at the international track meet included the setting of a new world record in the high jump (7 feet, 6.25 inches) by University of Wisconsin’s Pat Matzdorf (USA); and a new national record in the 5000m (13:30.4) by USA’s Steve Prefontaine (University of Oregon).

Overall in points, the USA won, USSR was second, and the World All-Stars team was third.

Works Cited

AP (July 14, 1971) „For America-Russian Track Duel: U.S. Runners Weren’t Ready,“ in „Odessa American.“

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Source by Jonathan Musere

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