Vladimir Polyakov, the world record holder in the pole vault, was not on the official Soviet Union team named today for the dual meet against the United States at the new $5.9-million Indiana University Track and Field Stadium Friday and Saturday.
Instead, the Soviets chose Viktor Spasov to join Konstantin Volkov for what promises to be a high-altitude battle with Dave Volz and Billy Olson. Polyakov will be vaulting, too, as a "guest" competitor, and only the result will show whether Coach Nikolay Politiko's move was spurred by common sense or psychology.
"Our pole vault coaches thought that right now Spasov and Volkov are in better form," Politiko said through an interpreter. "Spasov competed very well indoors. He won the European championship at 5.70 (meters, 18 feet 8 1/4 inches)."
It is significant that the increments for Friday's vault are listed up to 5.82 meters. Polyakov's world record, established in Moscow in June 1981, is 5.81 (19-0 3/4).
Volkov cleared 19-2 at Irkutsk last August, but the competition was part of a general celebration of Soviet Railwaymen's Day that featured more dancing than track and field, and there was no attempt to obtain ratification as a record.
"The Russian meet is a big, important meet and it's the one where I want to get the world record," Olson said. "I started the indoor season in great shape (he vaulted an indoor-best 18-10) and I can feel myself back in that form again. Nineteen is a big barrier, but I've tried it at six meets now and I feel comfortable at it."
"One of the goals I set for this year was to reach 19 feet," said Volz, an Indiana sophomore who holds the U.S. record of 18-9 1/2 and is a replacement for Dan Ripley, who has hepatitis. "I'm eager. The Russians have some real good jumpers, but I would like to win."
The slim, skillful field is conducive to a record effort, since the vaulters will not be drained by the waiting common at most meets.
Sandy Chapman, a former Interhigh 800-meter and cross-country champion from Spingarn who runs for California's Mt. San Antonio College, was another scratch because of hepatitis. Chapman, who was scheduled to run the 800 here; Ripley, a coach at Mt. San Antonio, and members of two other junior-college teams all were affected by the apparently food-borne virus.
Other world-record possibilities exist here in the 100 meters, with Carl Lewis and Calvin Smith renewing their burgeoning rivalry; the 400-meter relay, with a U.S. team of Terron Wright, Mike Miller, H.D. Woodson High grad Darwin Cook and Smith; the hammer, with the world's top two, Soviets Sergey Litvinov and Yuri Syedikh, and the women's 100, featuring Evelyn Ashford.
"This is a fast track and with the right kind of conditions you might see some exceptional times," said Sam Adams, the U.S. men's coach. "I would not be surprised to see our 4x100-meter team go under 38 seconds (the U.S. set the world record of 38.03 in 1977) and I hope we can sweep the sprints."
American men have won both the 200 and 400 in all 17 dual meets against the Soviets. In the team scoring, the U.S. men have a 12-5 margin, with the Soviet women ahead, 16-1.
The men's score, at least, should be close this time, with the U.S. hurt by the absence of such injured stars as Edwin Moses, Don Paige, Stanley Floyd and Bob Roggy. James Robinson, Steve Scott and others are competing in Europe. That is balanced by the fact the Soviets are just moving into outdoor competition, with the European championships in September as their main target.
Where once this meet approached the intensity of a national crusade, it now is staged on a lower key. However, Politiko, a member of the Soviet 400-meter relay team in 1964 in Los Angeles, said, "In the beginning, certainly there was more excitement. But the importance of this match is the same. We consider it the match of giants."