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Unmistakably: No 1. Edwin Moses

By Amy Rosewater | Aug. 05, 2014, 12:53 p.m. (ET)

Edwin Moses competes in the men's 400-meter hurdles event at the 1984 Olympic Games on Aug. 8, 1984 at the Coliseum Stadium in Los Angeles.

On the day when most Olympic observers were pretty much planning for Edwin Moses’ coronation as the 400-meter hurdles king, Moses was preparing for the worst.

“I really didn’t want to lose,” Moses said. “I had this winning streak and there were cameras all over the place and I knew I could win. The only thing I was thinking about was not making a mistake. I knew as the favorite, anything could happen. You could get injured, or fall or get sick. Everyone just assumes you are going to win, but I didn’t want to be the one who could and then didn’t.”

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 5, 1984, Edwin Moses did not make a mistake.

Edwin Moses celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 400-meter hurdles event during the 1984 Olympic Games on Aug. 12, 1984 at the Coliseum Stadium in Los Angeles.

From the moment he took off with his explosive start to his dominant finish, Moses cast no doubt that he was the class of the field. A winner in the event at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, Moses had hoped to defend his title in 1980 in Moscow. That plan was thwarted by the Americans’ boycott of those Games, but because he missed the Games in 1980, his golden moment in Los Angeles in 1984 became possible.

He won his second gold medal in 47.75 seconds, which was not as brisk as the world-record time of 47.63 he set in Montreal, but Moses gladly took it.

“I ran a conservative race,” he said. “I just didn’t want to clip a hurdle. When the race was over there was a feeling of absolute relief. I considered myself a survivor.”

A survivor who had just won his 105th-consecutive race.

Moses would continue his winning ways following the Olympic Games in Los Angeles to win 122 consecutive races, with the streak ending in June 1987. Danny Harris, who earned the silver medal in 1984, was the man who wound up snapping Moses’ streak three years later.

Following his win in Los Angeles, Moses recalls celebrating along with several relatives and friends that evening at a Chinese restaurant called Mr. Chow. His mother and a brother were there as well as his physical therapist, his agent and some high school friends. One person missing from the celebration was his father, a former high school principal, who died in 1983.

“He really would have liked to have been here, and unfortunately, he wasn’t,” Moses told reporters after his victory. “I feel this victory is for him.”

Moses, now 58, last week returned to Los Angeles to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Games along with about 50 Olympians at the LA84 Foundation. He was joined by the likes of gymnast Mary Lou Retton, diver Greg Louganis and cyclist Connie Carpenter-Phinney. Also in attendance was Peter Ueberroth, who headed the L.A. Organizing Committee. On the grounds of the foundation, they celebrated the past but also the work that the foundation has been able to achieve today for youth sports programs.

“Nowhere on earth is there a living legacy of this magnitude,” Moses told the crowd of about 250 people at the LA84 Foundation’s reception.

Edwin Moses reads the Olympic oath during the Opening Ceremony at the 1984 Olympic Games on July 28, 1984 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

These days, Moses remains very much invested in sports. He is the chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s board of directors and is chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s education committee. He also is the chairman of the board of trustees for Laureus Foundation USA, an organization that uses sport to make change in the world.

Moses not only is seeing change through sports around the globe but also in his own home. His son, Julian, is 6-foot-4 and an accomplished volleyball player who has committed to play at Lewis University in Chicago.

Moses hopes his son might be able to see another Olympic Games on U.S. soil. Los Angeles, along with Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., is seeking to become the potential U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games. Having seen the fruits of the Los Angeles Games in 1984, Moses knows firsthand what it would mean to have the Games back in the United States.

“It would be great to have the Games back in the U.S.,” Moses said. “I would love to be a part of having the Olympics back here. The Games in Los Angeles were very, very successful.”

Perhaps the only thing he would not sign up for is stating the Olympic Oath. Back in 1984, Moses struggled to get the oath correct during the Opening Ceremony. During the 30th anniversary reception, Moses poked fun at himself for botching the words.

“That was the night my acting career ended,” he told the crowd.

He made a mistake then, but more than made up for that error on the track.

Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she covered her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.