American track and field, denied its quadrennial injection of Olympic hype, is suffering a severe case of the blahs.Hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah hopes to put his sport back in the spotlight with a multifaceted campaign that also figures to pad his bank account.
Nehemiah's ambitions for the coming year include:
Lowering his world indoor record of 6.89 for the indoor 60-yard highs. The target date is Feb. 6, at the Millrose Games in New York.
Finishing in the top three of television's "Superstars" finals Feb. 20-22. That would earn him a berth in the "World" Superstars the following week.
Clocking 12.90 or better for the 110-meter hurdles outdoors. He holds the world record of 13.00 and has run a wind-aided 12.91.
Mounting a solid challenge to Edwin Moses, who has not been beaten in the intermediate hurdles since 1977. Nehemiah has not run the intermediates since high school, when he set the national record.
Along with these competitive goals, Nehemiah has established another of high priority. He will graduate from the University of Maryland on schedule in May, with a major in communications.
That Nehemiah is capable of once again rewriting the hurdles record book, as he did in 1979, was effectively demonstrated here Friday night. After only two days of speed hurdling and one practice session out of the blocks, Nehemiah earned outstanding-athlete honors in the Philadelphia Track Classic by winning the 60-yard highs in 7.01.
A less-successful competitor was Herschel Walker, Georgia's all-America freshman running back, making his indoor track debut. He finished seventh and last in the 60-yard dash, with a time of 6.32.
Nehemiah said of himself: "The strength and speed are there, and I think by Milrose I'll be close to a world record."
Nehemiah has been lifting weights in preparation for the "Superstars" and he has added 10 pounds, up to 185. He felt it made him a bit top-heavy, which caused him to hammer the first hurdle and to make some technical errors over the barriers. But he can bench-press 305 pounds, compared with 275 in 1979, and he feels it will give him needed strength when he takes up the intermediate hurdles outdoors.
"I didn't train for the 'Superstars' last time (Dec. 12-14), because there were a lot of questions about the money and whether I could keep it," Nehemiah said.
"I'm working closely with The Athletics Congress on the money situation and I think I'll be able to keep 50 to 60 percent and still compete in track. In the ("Superstars") preliminaries, I won $8,500 and I think I can win some big money in the final. But I'm not just doing it for money. I'm doing it for notoriety purposes, too, and to bring recognition to track and field.
"Mike Schmidt (of the Phillies) won our preliminary, but I was second and Edwin Moses was third. That's good for our sport."
Nehemiah won the half mile in 2:17, lost the tennis final to Schmidt and went unplaced in rowing and golf. This time, in addition to the half mile, obstacle course and tennis, he intends to compete in cycling, bowling, swimming and weight lifting.
Nehemiah receives comfortable income forr wearing Puma shoes and he is offering suggestions on shoe design. That was the key to his leaving the University of Maryland team, because he could not have accepted that money and still competed collegiately.
My goals were not team-oriented; they were far from a team situation," Nehemiah said. "I had other options. But I still have a good rapport with the team. I work out with the team in terms of running, although I coach myself and train by myself."