Evelyn Ashford ran off with the hearts of 18,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium tonight as she whipped East Germany's invincible woman, Marita Koch, in the 200 meter dash that highlighted the opening program of World Cup II.
Edwin Moses, in the 400 meter hurdles, and James Sanford, in the 100 meters, were other American winners as the United States men jumped off to a four point lead over East Germany in the team competition.
The American women had left Duseldorf without a single gold medal after the first World Cup in 1977, but Ashford quickly assured that there would be no shutout this time.
Running in lane eight, the 22 year old UCLA senior roared around the turn two yards in front of Koch, the world record holder in lane one, who had not lost a race at either 200 or 400 meters in two years.
The crowd waited for Koch to catch up, but it never happened. Ashford was still two yards in front as she crossed the finish line in 21.83, second fastest time in history and 62/100 of a second under her American record.
Ashford gleefully clapped her hands after passing the finish, then repeated the performance while watching the replay on the big Olympic scoreboard. Koch holds the world mark of 21.71.
Moses came within 8/100ths of a second of his world record, clocking 47.53 in a race that quickly became a runaway. It was Moses' 31st straight victory. West German Harald Schmid, the last man to beat him, in 1977, was a distant second tonight in 48.71.
Moses promised to go under 47 seconds next year.
"I plan to train hard next year, but I've been cutting down the last two years." he said. "It's hard to push yourself through the boundary when you know your're five, 10, 15 yards out on everybody."
Sanford overhauled Silvio Leonard, the Pan American Games double gold medalist from Cuba, in the last 26 meters to win a race marred by three false starts. Sanford was timed in 10.17, a tenth of a second off his winning time in the AAU meet, which ranks as the world's best of the year.
"I was digging in, trying to accelerate," Sanford said. "I've been hurt and I'm tired, but once the adrenaline gets to flowing you don't feel anything."
James Robinson, Mac Wilkins and Craig Virgin added silver medals to the U.S. effort. The only brake on a U.S. runaway was Duncan Atwood's last-place finish in the javelin.
Robinson trailed young James Boi Naina of Kenya to the finish in the 800 meters as both sprinted in the stretch. Until that last drive, the race had been an all-German duel between West's Willi Wulbeck and East's Olaf Beyer.
Wilkins was beaten in the discus by his old nemesis, East German Wolfgang Schmidt. Wilkins trails Schmidt, 8-2, in their lifetime competition, but one of those two successes was the big one, here in the 1976 Olympics.
Virgin battled Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter even for all but the last 250 meters of their 10,000 meter duel, then Yifter sprinted past to win easily. On his victory lap, Yifter repeated his sudden spurt to the finish line, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The opening event produced a startling upset close to the magnitude of the Ashford-Koch shocker. Barbel Klepp of East Germany cut down the Soviet world record holder, Marina Makeyeva, in the last few strides after trailing off the last barrier of the 400 meter hurdles.
Makeyeva grabbed her head in disbelief as she realized she had lost. American Debbie Esser finished third.
East Germany's favored women took the 1,600 meter relay, but there was glory enough for Sherri Howard, the 17 year old high school girl who fought off Poland's Irena Szewinska down the stretch to preserve the bronze medal for the U.S.
Kathy McMillan took the bronze in the long jump, although she was a foot behind the winning 21-9 1/2 of Soviet Anita Stukane. $030302