Mary Decker has a new name, Slaney, and a newer, more menacing running problem than 84-pound Zola Budd.
After failing to reach her goal of a world indoor best for the mile at the Millrose Games Friday night, Slaney revealed that she had been knocked off kilter emotionally by an encounter with a mugger last Saturday on a bicycle path outside Eugene, Ore.
"I was out on a five-mile training run, and this guy on a bicycle pulled up next to me and asked if I had seen his dog," Slaney said. "He followed me for 100 meters, then all of a sudden he jumped off the bicycle, knocked me to the ground and had his hands on my mouth.
"He said he wanted money. I told him I didn't have any money and then he said if I didn't, he was going to kill me. Then he started to try to take my rings off me.
"I really don't know what happened next, but all of a sudden I had broken away and was running down the road. I flagged down a car that had just stopped. It was an elderly couple.
"I was all hysterical and in shock, but they managed to drive me back. It was the most frightening experience of my life. People had warned me about running alone on that bicycle path, but it's one of those things that you say will never happen to you, and then it does.
"I always thought they had to catch me first, but I never thought about the possibility of somebody jumping off a bicycle. I feel lucky that I got away unharmed. I bruised my hip, but I think I was hurt emotionally more than physically."
Slaney said that since the incident her husband, Richard, had been riding a bicycle alongside her when she did not have another runner for company, and would continue to do so. He is the 280-pound discus thrower who guarded her so effectively from the media during the 1984 Olympics. They were married Jan. 1.
"I won't run alone again, and you don't know how it feels to lose that freedom," said Slaney, who reported the incident to police in Springfield, Ore., without result.
"They wanted to take pictures of the bruises, which I didn't want," she said. "I guess I was in shock, because I couldn't remember what the man looked like. I couldn't help in any way."
Although Slaney won the Millrose Games mile easily in 4:22.01, she missed her indoor best by 1 1/2 seconds.
"This year, I wanted to run three distances indoors and set three new world records," Slaney said. "I got one of them (the 2,000 meters at Los Angeles the night before the mugging), but here, even though the time was very respectable, it was a little disappointing.
"There was really no life in me the second half of the race. I used up a lot of adrenaline just trying to put things out of my mind. I didn't really want to come here this week, because I knew I'd be asked a lot of questions about it."
Only a few persons remained in Madison Square Garden past midnight, which was just fine with Jimmy Howard. Free of distractions, Howard, 25, a Texas A&M graduate, raised the American indoor record in the high jump to 7 feet 8 inches on his third attempt at the height.
"I was starting to lose my confidence, because I've tried 7-8 so many times and missed. I started to feel like it was a repeat," Howard said. "But something was different tonight, and I finally broke the barrier.
"I think part of it was there were less distractions after the races ended. Nobody was walking in front of me. I don't care about the crowd or the guns going off or things like that, but I really get upset when people walk in front of me."
Howard has been erratic, to say the least. He won the TAC outdoor championship last year at 7-7 1/4, then managed only 7-1 1/2 as the major flopping flop of the U.S. Olympic Trials. But he recouped, went to Europe and hit a personal best, before Friday night, of 7-7 3/4.
"My problem has always been too fast an approach," Howard said. "So I slowed down and tried to relax and pretended that I was at a low height, and I guess it worked."
Howard and Patrik Sjoberg, the Olympic silver medalist from Sweden who passed at 7-8, both had good efforts at 7-9 3/4, which would have topped Carlo Thranhardt's world indoor best by a half inch.
"It was such a thrill to finally get 7-8, I found it hard to get motivated at 7-9 3/4," Howard said. "That's a big jump, almost two inches, but maybe I can get more psyched for it next time. I was tired by then, because a lot of jumps at high heights takes a lot out of you. And as for pretending you're jumping at a low height, that's pretty tough when it gets that high."
Benita Fitzgerald Brown, formerly of Dale City, Va., was a soundly beaten fourth behind Stephanie Hightower in the 60-yard hurdles. It hardly was a distressing night for Brown, however. The introduction as "Olympic champion" was worth the trip from her new home in Austin, Tex.
"It really makes me feel good, to hear that everywhere I go," Brown said. "The gold medal is something people can't take away, no matter how many Millrose races I lose. I'm not in shape to run yet. I just graduated (from Tennessee) in the fall with a degree in industrial engineering, and then I moved to Texas with my husband (Laron).
"He's transferred to Texas, and he has two more years of football and track. People there see no reason why he won't be starting for them next year. I'm back with my old coaches, who had left Tennessee for Texas, so you might say we're both starting fresh. I promise you, I'll be ready by the time the TAC meet comes around (Feb. 22)."