Sport: To Do a Little Better

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I expect he will surpass his previous show ing. I am sure that when we meet again in Rome we shall be good friends." Just Poof. Kuznetsov, Johnson, Yang and a husky long shot from Oregon named Dave Edstrom (best score: 8,176) will likely turn the decathlon competition in Rome into the tensest in history. "It's only going to take one bad event to bump a guy right out of a gold medal," says Coach Drake. "A bad start in the sprints, a puff of wind at the wrong time in the high jump or pole vault, a foul in the shotput or discus, a broken stride in the hurdles, and poof, it could be all over for one of these boys." Under such pressure, Johnson's greatest asset will be his bedrock of self-reliance, a quality that keeps him from having few really intimate friends, but allows him to work himself up to a cold competitive pitch ten times during the wearying grind of the decathlon. In Rome, Johnson will have an added incentive: he is quitting the decathlon after the Olympics. "I've had it," says Johnson. "It's time I started concentrating on a few other things." Rafer Johnson would like eventually to travel abroad as a good-will representative for the U.S. State Department. "I know that sort of thing can do a lot to ease tensions," says Johnson. "I like people. I want to do all I can to help them in whatever little way I can." But first there is the matter at hand: a gold medal in Rome. Says Decathlon Star Rafer Johnson: "I am prepared to win — what ever that takes."

* In the decathlon, each competitor's performance in each of the ten events is measured against a formidable 78-page book of tables.

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