Edwin Moses, 56, is a legendary American 400m hurdler who won gold medals at the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games. Between 1977 and 1987 he went on an unbeaten run
of 122 consecutive races, breaking the
world record four times into the bargain.
In 2000 he was elected as the first chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, an association of 46 of the world's greatest living sportsmen who act as ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
business:life: What was your first connection with Laureus?
EM: Back in 1999, Daley Thompson and the director of the Academy came to see me
in California and told me about the idea of
using sport as a tool for social change. At the inaugural meeting we had in Monte Carlo, the surprise guest was Nelson Mandela. There were more than 40 great sportsmen in the room and he came in and talked about the importance
of sport when he was incarcerated. The only part of the newspaper they would let him see used to be the sports pages. He went around the room and pointed people out, from Nadia Comaneci to myself, to Ray Leonard, to the rugby guys and cricket guys, and talked
about how important sport was to him. That really solidified what Laureus was all about in everyone's mind immediately. Shortly thereafter they asked who would volunteer to be chairman and I think Daley Thompson and Ilie Nastase
put me forward. We didn't know what we were going to be doing, it was just a concept. Today we have over 100 projects ongoing and have raised over £44m for projects, helping to improve the lives of more than 1.5 million young people.
bl: What is the role of Laureus?
EM: Our mission is to utilise the power of sport
to address social challenges. We choose our projects very carefully. The first was the Mathare Youth Sports Association, which is based in one of the biggest, poorest slums in Nairobi. The project pioneered the use of football as a tool to encourage co-operation and raise self-esteem in the young people of the community. It's twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
We have projects dealing with everything from childhood obesity to gangs. We're not the biggest organisation and we don't have the most money, but we pack a lot of punch with what we do.
bl: You're a double Olympian. What makes the Olympic Games so special?
EM: I think it's the camaraderie. There's no other sporting event that involves so many athletes from so many different countries. You have all these great athletes and some that are not so great, and yet they all participate. And a lot
of leaders are made at the Olympic Games.
All over the world Olympians have become heavyweights in industry and the arts and science and education. It's a true breeding ground of leadership.
bl: How much do you remember about your first Olympic final, in 1976?
EM: Pretty much everything. The thing is that when you make an Olympic team, you know
at exactly what minute and what hour you're going to be running in the final. So what I did was really focus on that in the four months before the Games. Everything I did in training and all the races I ran were concentrated on 7.35pm, July 25th.
bl: Did you feel cheated by not being able to compete in Moscow because of the US boycott?
EM: I did because I'd given up my career in aerospace engineering. It was a huge sacrifice for me at that time. Those were the days when even if you had a job and they were willing to
let you have extra time to train, that technically was against the rules.
bl: You were instrumental in changing all that.
EM: Yeah, it all changed in 1981 and I played a part in that. It meant we were legitimately able to say we had a contract with a company and make money as professionals. Before that we were paid illegally. When I was in college I had a contract from Adidas and I was making money at track meets, but all of it was illegal according to the sport's governing bodies. That's the way it was. Everyone knew that it was happening.
bl: How different was the gold medal second time around?
EM: There was more pressure on me because
of the business and marketing implications and the fact that I was going into the Games with
99 victories — that was not the place I wanted to end my winning streak! Stuff happens to people who are supposed to win at the Olympics. There's always a handful who should win a gold medal but don't, whether it's because of injury or illness or maybe they just trip and fall over. My major concern was that it could be me this time. That's one of the factors that the general public doesn't quite understand. But those of us who have to get up and do it understand that you can have a bad day.
bl: You were unbeaten for nine years. Did you think of yourself as invincible or did you keep worrying that you were going to end your streak?
EM: I was sure that no one trained as hard as I did and that my training program was superior.
I just didn't think it was possible for anybody to beat me based on what I was doing. And for most of my career I was way ahead of the
world — I was beating people the way that
Usain Bolt does now. There was no competition. Unfortunately, I never reached my highest potential because of that lack of competition.
bl: How did it feel on the day when you were finally beaten?
EM: I shouldn't have been running that day —
I had food poisoning. All I was thinking about was getting home, trying to get over the condition I was in and getting ready for the trials. At the trials I won by eight metres as normal. In track and field everyone starts out losing. It's like a rollercoaster: you win, you get up to a higher level of competition and then
you go down again. So I did a lot of losing in getting to the top, that's just a part of the sport.
I think today the athletes see losing a little bit differently. They're afraid to compete because they're afraid to lose.
Interview by Tim Hulse. For more information visit laureus.com.
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