Filbert Bayi of Tanzania, considered at least the second best miler in the world, is scheduled to make his first area appearance Jan. 13 in the National Invitational indoor meet at Cole Field House.
Bayi will run the mile against Wilson Waigwa of Kenya, Jim Peterson of Georgetown, Paul Cummings and Dick Buerkle. Their target will be Maryt Liquori's meet record of 3:57.7, set in 1975.
Bayi will be accompaned by another great Tanzanian distance runner, Suleiman Nyambui, who will compete in the two-mile against Liquori and Kenyan James Munyala.
Meet director Bob Comstock has encountered problems with committed foreign athletes who vanished before race time in the past, notably Ben Jipcho and Miruts Yifter, but Comstock also recalled one who showed up. Kip Keino's brilliant 3:59.4 mile in 1972 turned Cole into a maelstrom of noise and probably ranks as the 10-year-old meet's finest moment.
"The problem with the others was that I never knew if they had received their tickets or obtained visas," Comstock said. "But Bayi has talked to the airline representative and the significant thing is that he's picking up the tickets, so I'm further along than I've ever been. He's flying over Jan. 4 on British Airways and he'll arrive in Los Angeles at 6 a.m. Jan. 5."
Bayi plans to complete in the Jan. 7 Muhammad Ali Classic at Long Beach, Calif. On past trips, Bayi has timed his arrival too close to his first competition, performed poorly and then run away from everybody in subsequent meets.
"We had asked him to leave Jan. 2, but he rejected that," Comstock said, "He may be waiting too long for the Ali meet, but we'll have the advantage of his being in the California sunshine for a week before he comes here."
Bayi reportedly was married in October and is out of shape, a factor supposedly contributing to cancellation of a planned January visit to New Zealand to challenge mile record holder John Walker.
Bayi's pace-setting style promises a fast race at Cole. His indoor best for the mile is 3:56.1, while Waigwa has clocked 3:55.7 and Cummings 3:57.6. Tony Waldrop set the indoor record of 3:55.0 at San Diego in 1974.
Bayi holds the outdoor 1,500-meter mark of 3:32.2. His 3:51.0 was the mile standard until Walker raced to 3:49.4.