Moses, Edwin Corley

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MOSES, Edwin Corley

(b. 31 August 1955 in Dayton, Ohio), track-and-field star who won the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games and the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics, and who was undefeated for 122 consecutive high-hurdle events.

The son of two educators, and one of three boys, Moses spent most of his childhood reading books and concentrating on his studies. He was reared in Dayton, Ohio, where his father, Irving S. Moses, worked as an elementary school principal, and his mother, Gladys H. Moses, worked as a high school curriculum supervisor. Education was stressed in the Moses household, and extracurricular activities were only permitted if they did not interfere with academics. Moses showed a penchant for math and science at an early age and spent his spare time dissecting frogs and collecting fossils.

Moses attended Fairview High School, a predominantly white school, where he was one of twenty African-American students. He maintained a high grade-point average and had a reputation for being a "smart guy." While most kids spent their summer vacation enjoying the outdoors, Moses took math and science courses for extra credit. His studious qualities actually led him to his track career; he learned how to hurdle by reading a Boy Scout handbook on track and field. Moses's strong academic record earned him a scholarship as a National Merit Scholar to the historically African-American college, Morehouse, in Atlanta, where he majored in physics. Despite his grueling course work, Moses joined the school's track team and managed to maintain a 3.5 grade-point average.

Moses's body went through a metamorphosis during his years at Morehouse; he grew several inches and gained about 35 pounds. At six feet, two inches and 165 pounds, it took Moses only thirteen strides to go from one hurdle to the next, and he won his races with ease. His coach saw a great deal of promise in the young athlete and encouraged him to tryout for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.

Moses's opportunity to go to the Olympics came during the 1976 Florida Relays in Gainesville. Although he did not win any races, his hurdling technique caught the attention of Olympic track-and-field coach Leroy Walker. Walker believed Moses would be the future champion for the 400-meter intermediates, and took him under his wing. Under Walker's tutelage, Moses qualified to compete at the Olympics and headed to Montreal, where he took home the gold medal and set a new world record by completing the 400-meter hurdles in 47.63 seconds with a 1.05-second margin of victory—the longest margin of victory in the history of the Olympic event.

After winning the gold, Moses became an instant celebrity, but he had a love/hate relationship with the media. Journalists found Moses to be aloof and mistook his prescription sunglasses as a sign of antisocial behavior. However, Moses's winning streak continued, and he became more popular in both Europe and the United States. His public persona also changed with some help from his wife, artist Myrella Bordt, whom he married on 30 May 1982. During the height of his popularity, Moses used his celebrity status to change certain practices in track and field. He became a spokesperson for a litany of causes and spoke out against the use of anabolic steroids. He also chastised the practices of some sports promoters, whom he felt exploited the athletes financially, and challenged them to increase appearance fees and lobbied for the compensation of amateur athletes. Moses's popularity also won him endorsement deals from various companies and increased his income to an estimated $500,000 a year.

Despite his success and fame, Moses continued to focus on his studies. He went back to college and graduated from Morehouse College with a B.S. in physics in 1978. Four years after his first Olympic victory, Moses was still in the midst of a long winning streak and was believed to be a sure winner in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. However, when President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Olympic games that year, Moses had to wait another four years before he could again compete in the Olympics. Eight years after he took home the gold, Moses, because of his age, was seen as the underdog in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Skeptics were doubtful that he would even make the U.S. Olympic team. Moses not only qualified for the team, but he also won a second gold medal, beating out his more youthful competitors. That year, Sports Illustrated named him the Sportsman of the Year.

In 1987 Moses's winning streak came to an end when, at the age of thirty-one, he lost to twenty-one-year-old Danny Harris. At the time of the loss, Moses had won 122 consecutive races in nearly 10 years, one of the longest winning streaks in track history. Moses recovered the same year when he defeated Harris in Rome to regain the world title.

At thirty-three, Moses was one of the oldest athletes to qualify on the U.S. Olympic track team for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. His attempt to win the gold came at a high price. He suffered back and knee injuries from excessive training and required physical therapy every day. Over a decade older than his opponents, Moses finished the 400-meter hurdles in third place and won the bronze medal. He made another attempt at winning a medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics, but this time on the U.S. bobsled team. He trained with the team in hopes of winning the berth position. But those dreams never came to fruition, and Moses retired from professional sports.

After retiring, Moses decided to pursue a graduate degree in business. In 1994 he graduated from Pepperdine University's M.B.A. program and became a financial consultant and partner for Salomon Smith Barney's Platinum Group. He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1994.

An accomplished athlete, Moses is revered for his performance on and off the track. His intelligence, dedication, and natural ability have brought him success as a track star and as a businessman. Moses is also a philanthropist and an active member of various charities and community organizations. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and son.

Biographical information about Moses can be found in Current Biography Yearbook (1986), and Black Olympian Medallist (1991). He is also featured in Ebony (May 1984 and July 1992); Jet (26 Dec. 1994 and 22 July 1996); People Weekly (23 July 1984 and 19 Sept. 1988); Sports Illustrated (30 July 1984, 24 Dec. 1984, 9 June 1986, 15 June 1987); and the Washington Post (28 Apr. 1985).

Sabine Louissaint