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'Hopefully, as the guy nobody could beat,' he answered. Given that he was undefeated for nine years, nine months and nine days, for 122 consecutive races, it could be said that Edwin Moses got his wish.
Neither the American's rivals - if you could stretch to calling them that - nor his dreams, could keep up with Moses. Bounding prodigiously over the 10 three-foot hurdles, taking an unprecedented 13 steps between hurdles instead of the usual 14, he was a formidable assembly of speed, technique, grace and stamina; Moses consistently made the most demanding of events seem almost ridiculously simple. 'My slow is faster than most athletes' fast,' he said. 'People either think that I'm a freak or that the other guys aren't any good.'
From 1976 to 1989 Moses competed in 156 400-metre hurdle races. Out of those 156 races, he was beaten just six times, a heroic feat which may never be equalled in athletics. Between August 1977, when he lost to West Germany's Harald Schmid, and June 1987, when compatriot Danny Harris got the better of him, Moses won 122 races in a row.
Moses's dominance is more remarkable when you consider that in school he had been an academic, rather than an athlete. 'I had no ambitions to be an Olympic track star or any kind of athlete,' he once said.
Edwin Corley Moses was born on 31 August 1955 in Dayton, Ohio. With both his parents working in education, Moses took school more seriously than most kids, although he also competed in sports. When his high school basketball coach cut him from the team and the football coach kicked him out for fighting, Moses turned to athletics, and also gymnastics. 'I found that I enjoyed individual sports much more,' he said. 'Everything is cut and dry; nothing is arbitrary. It's just a matter of getting to the finish line first.'
After high school, rather than seeking an athletic scholarship, Moses accepted an academic scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta, majoring in physics and engineering. The school had an athletics team - it didn't have a track, though.
At Morehouse, Moses was known by fellow students as the 'Bionic Man' due to his masochistic workouts and scientific approach to his sport. He competed almost exclusively in the 110-metre hurdles and 400 metres, competing in a 400m hurdles just once before March 1976. But once he started with the event, he made freakishly fast progress - with his track-eating, 9ft 9in stride he proved a natural at the event.
When he was a 20-year-old, unknown scholar-athlete from a renowned black college, Montreal made Moses. Not only did he win the Olympic gold medal - in his first international meet, and just four months after running his first 400m hurdles - he set a world record of 47.64 seconds, lowering John Akii-Bua's mark of 47.82. His eight-metre victory over Mike Shine was the largest winning margin in the event in Olympic history.
Leroy Walker, the US Olympic track and field coach in 1976, was impressed: 'Extraordinary talent is obvious. We're in the rarefied presence of an immortal here. Edwin's a crowd unto himself.'
Despite being the only American male track athlete to win an individual gold in Montreal, Moses was not warmly received back home. But then his perpetual straight face and dark glasses lent him an impersonal air. For much of his career, Moses was not fully appreciated by sports fans, who viewed him as aloof and arrogant, a hurdling automaton. 'I have the killer instinct,' Moses said. 'It's ego. When I'm on the track, I want to beat everyone.' Not until years later would he earn the respect his achievements merited.
Moses never got the chance to defend his Olympic title. Jimmy Carter ordered the American team to boycott the Moscow Games in 1980 and Moses had to settle for breaking his own world record again, running 47.13 on 13 July in Milan. He would have almost certainly won in Moscow, something which rankled: 'I can remember feeling irritated listening to people being introduced as Olympic champions from Moscow.'
Away from the track, Moses actively fought for athletes' rights. In 1980 he challenged the rules that prevented amateurs from accepting money for competing and making endorsements. Moses's peers backed his stand on that issue (he became the sport's first million-dollar athlete) but he failed to win the same support when he spoke out against drug use a few years later. 'Somebody had to say something,' he said. 'What are these people doing to their bodies? Is winning worth that price?'
Moses went on to win gold - naturally - at the 1983 World Championships (he won despite one of his shoelaces coming undone on the back straight) and the 1984 LA Olympics. By the time he won gold at the 1987 World Championships, avenging the defeat inflicted by Danny Harris earlier that year - 'I wasn't feeling good that day, I probably shouldn't have run' Moses said - his glorious hurdling career was all but over. He was still good enough to win a bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, aged 33 (ironically, he ran his fastest ever time for an Olympic final), but it turned out to be his swansong.
After retiring from athletics, Moses flirted, incongruously, with bobsledding. He won bronze at a World Cup event in 1990 and finished seventh at the 1991 World Championships.
His image was briefly tarnished in 1985 when he was accused - and acquitted - of soliciting a policewoman posing as a prostitute, but it didn't do lasting damage to his reputation.
Even now you get the feeling that Moses, who is currently chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, feels undervalued, although as time goes by his career looks greater and greater: 'Maybe 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."'
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