Edwin Moses was the most dominant athlete ever in his event, winning 122 consecutive races – including 107 consecutive finals! – and two Olympic gold medals over a nearly 10-year span in the 440-meter hurdles.
But one of the United States’ all-time track stars did not always seem bound for greatness. As a high schooler, he tried football and basketball before settling on track. “I found that I enjoyed individual sports much more,” Moses said in an interview. “Everything is cut and dry; nothing is arbitrary. It’s just a matter of getting to the finish line first.”
He received an academic to college, choosing to attend Morehouse College – which did field a track team but did not have its own track – and majored in physics. And he arrived on the world stage without much buildup – the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games were his first international meet. But Moses sure made a splash, setting a world record of 47.63 to claim his first gold medal. It was the only gold medal won by an American man in track and field in Montreal.
“In 1974 or 1975, if someone had told me I was going to be an Olympic champion, I would not have believed it,” Moses said years later. “Even in 1976, I’d not have believed it.”
The American boycott of the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games prevented Moses from defending his gold medal, but he was back atop the medal podium at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, where he also was selected to say the Olympic Oath.
Moses’ winning streak came to an end in 1987. At the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, Moses took bronze in the 440-meter hurdles, even though his time was faster than his gold medal runs in 1976 and 1984.
Moses earned a graduate degree from Pepperdine University and later became a leading sports activist. He was chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy and was outspoken in the effort to purge performance-enhancing drugs from track and field.