Mary Decker Slaney and Doug Padilla led a strong showing by U.S. athletes tonight in the final meet of the year for the IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix track and field tour. Each earned $35,000 for best overall performances among the men and women competing in the 16-meet series.
Slaney, 27, clinched her prize money with an impressive victory in the women's 3,000 meters, which she won in the U.S.-record time of 8:25.23, with Olympic champion Maricica Puica second and Zola Budd third.
Padilla, 28, running in a 5,000-meter race depleted by injuries to some of the world's best runners, scored a convincing victory in 13:27.79 that gave him the men's overall title.
The efforts by Slaney and Padilla were only two of the outstanding performances by American athletes tonight, including a U.S. record of 54.38 by Judi Brown-King in the women's 400-meter hurdles before an estimated 58,000 spectators at Rome's pine-fringed Olympic Stadium.
Of the 16 finals, U.S. athletes won eight, including such events normally dominated by East Europeans as the women's long jump and the men's javelin.
Not even the oustanding pole vaulting of the Soviet Union's world record-holder, Sergei Bubka, could detract from the American domination of the Grand Prix series that, beginning with the Bruce Jenner Bud Light Classic in San Jose, Calif., May 25, conducted its 16 meets in 13 countries.
Bubka, 21, whose world record is 19-8 1/4, won with a vault of 19-6 1/4, then announced he would try for a new world record of 19-8 1/2. With the overall men's title -- and the accompanying $25,000 -- riding on his ability to break his record, as he had here last year, he tried three times and failed.
With that failure, the absense of such great male distance runners as Britain's Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram and Brazil's Joaquim Cruz, plus the last-minute defection (because of a recent hamstring injury) of Morocco's Said Aouita, who set world records this summer at 1,500 and 5,000 meters, the premier event tonight was Slaney's first run over 3,000 meters against Puica and Budd since her ill-fated effort in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
With the Roman crowd applauding her all the way tonight, she once again offered convincing testimony that she currently is the best woman distance runner in the world. The victory was her 13th straight of the summer and was her eighth U.S. record -- at virtually every distance from 800 meters to 10,000. She set the world mile record in Zurich Aug. 21.
Puica was second tonight in 8:27.83 and Budd was third in 8:28.83.
Slaney led from the start, with Budd running only a few feet behind her and Puica running third for the first six laps. Puica overtook Budd on the sixth lap, then, on the final lap, strongly challenged Slaney on the backstretch. But Slaney picked up the pace and slowly pulled away.
"I expected Puica to push again on the home stretch and feared if she did she would get me," Slaney said afterward, complaining about the heat and humidity here, which she said she was not used to. "I was getting tired."
Asked if this victory put the memory of Los Angeles behind her for good, Slaney said, "That's all history."
Padilla's 5,000-meter victory was only slightly less decisive than Slaney's.
The overall men's standings had been dominated by Aouita, the Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000. But he had been closely pushed by two U.S. runners, Sydney Maree and Padilla.
As the meet began, in fact, the most prominent challenger to Aouita in the standings was none other than Padilla, who was behind the Moroccan by 45 points to 55. When Aouita pulled a hamstring in a race in Rieti, Italy, a week ago, Padilla was the most obvious benefactor.
The final race of the meet proved to be essentially just a match between Padilla and Maree. In the sprint to the tape, Padilla prevailed by less than two seconds, with Maree finishing in 13:28.04.
Jackie Joyner of the U.S. won the women's long jump at 22-8 and teammate Carol Lewis was third at 22-1.
In the woman's 100, Florence Griffith won in 11.0 seconds, followed by teammate Alice Brown in 11.04. Brown won the $10,000 prize for best performance in the event during the series.
The 1,500 that Aouita had been expected to win was taken by Spaniard Jose Abascal in 3:26.21. Omer Khalifa of Sudan was second and Steve Scott of the U.S. third.
The 110 hurdles was swept by U.S. runners, even though the favorite, Greg Foster, caught a foot on the final hurdle and tripped. The race was won by Tony Campbell, with Andre Phillips second and Sam Turner third.
As was expected, Calvin Smith won the 200 by three-tenths of a second over teammate Kirk Baptiste in 20.54. In the 400, Mike Franks and Ray Armstead of the U.S. ran one-two. Frank's winning time was 44.87.
U.S. athletes also finished one-two in the men's javelin, Tom Petranoff winning in 297-11 to Duncan Atwood's 296-3.