A week ago, Maru Teferi won a historic silver medal for Israel in the men's marathon at the World Championships in Budapest and secured his spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Olympic Games represent the pinnacle of professional aspirations for every athlete. It wasn't always this way; as we recall, until the 1980s, professional athletes were prohibited from participating. This changed thanks to Edwin Moses, born on August 31, 1955.
Edwin Moses was born in Dayton, Ohio, in the United States. At the beginning of his journey, he received a scholarship to study Physics and Industrial Engineering and Management at Morehouse College in Atlanta. During his studies, he joined the university's track and field team. He had to train on public tracks because the university did not have an athletics track.
Initially, Moses chose to compete in the 400-yard and 120-yard hurdles events, but in March 1976, he changed his direction and decided to focus on the 400-meter hurdles. He developed a unique technique of maintaining 13 strides between the hurdles and increasing the pace in the second half, which helped him improve his speed in the final stretch. In that same year, he won a gold medal at the Montreal Olympics, setting a world record of 47.64 seconds.
9-9-9: An unprecedented record for Edwin Moses
A year later, on August 26, he suffered a loss in a competition in Berlin to Harald Schmid of West Germany. A week after the loss, he avenged himself against Schmid with a remarkable victory by a margin of 15 meters, entering an unprecedented streak of nine years, nine months, and nine days without a loss. This streak was interrupted on June 4, 1987, with a loss in a competition in Madrid to the American Danny Harris.
During the nine years he established a world record that stands to this day of no less than 122 competitions without a loss. Over the years, he broke his own world record twice and won the title of world champion twice. He earned an additional gold medal in the Olympics (except for the 1980 Moscow Olympics where he was absent due to the Western boycott) and three gold medals in the continental cup.
Led the fight against drugs in sports
Even after that loss, he remained at the highest levels with another ten victories in competitions. In the 1987 Athletics World Championships, he won a gold medal before Harris and Schmid. He added a bronze medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics when he broke his own Olympic record but finished only in third place.
Beyond the impressive records he set and the numerous victories, Moses stood out for adopting a vegetarian diet. He was a leader in the fight against drugs and in 1988, he developed a drug testing program for athletes outside of competitions. He utilized his physics knowledge to significantly reduce the use of performance-enhancing drugs, a feat that made headlines during the Olympics that year because of Ben Johnson.
The Olympic slogan: "It's not the victory that matters, but the participation"
His significant contribution to sports extended beyond the fight against drugs or the records he set; it involved a meaningful transformation of the Olympic Games. When the modern Olympics were revived in 1896, they embraced the motto "The most important thing is not to win but to take part," and they prohibited professional athletes from participating.
Moses himself left his job during those years to dedicate himself entirely to sports, setting a goal to make this possible for all athletes. He established a support foundation for athletes that would enable them to earn government grants, private scholarships, or even earn money from endorsements without this preventing them from pursuing their Olympic dreams.
He outlined a reform that would turn the Olympic Games professional, and submitted it in 1981 to the President of the Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, whom we wrote about over a month ago as a former sports official who had connections with dictator Franco.
Thanks to Edwin Moses: the "Dream Team" was born
The reform was accepted that same year and went into effect a number of years later. The Seoul Olympics, in which Moses won a bronze medal, had already opened up to professional athletes. Four years later, professionalism brought us the "Dream Team" of the United States basketball team.
In the year 2000, he was appointed the head of the World Sports Academy. To this day, his personal record ranks sixth of all time, and he is one of only four individuals in history to have won two Olympic gold medals in his field, and one of the five who achieved this in the World Championships. He held the yearly record for over ten years and solidified his position as one of the greatest athletes in history.
He won numerous awards throughout his career, including the World Athlete of the Year in 1980, despite not participating in the Olympics that year. A year later, Moses won the Jesse Owens Award. In 1994, he entered the Track and Field Hall of Fame, and five years later, he was ranked 47th in ESPN's ranking. In 2018, he concluded his award journey by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in his hometown, which also honored him with a street named after him.