• U.S.

Sport: A Run for the Money

2 minute read

Pity the poor track and field star. If he is lucky, he may win one of the few college scholarships offered in his sport. If he is good enough to win a few events, he receives about as much acclaim as the runner-up in a homecoming-queen contest. Even if he is the best in the world, he must still sit back at graduation time and watch the football and basketball heroes pick off six-figure bonuses for turning pro. So what is left for him? Trips to a few A.A.U. meets perhaps—or maybe even a crack at an Olympic gold medal, which for an amateur requires a costly expenditure of time and money for a questionable return. Miler Jim Ryun, for example, spent long, arduous years training for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Then one disastrous spill in a qualifying heat lost him the chance to compete in the big event.

In an all-out effort to improve the athletes’ lot, Sports Promoter Michael O’Hara has announced the formation of a professional track and field circuit that will give displaced stars like Ryun a chance to run for the money. The new International Track Association has already signed Ryun and other world record holders such as Pole Vaulter Bob Seagren and Shot Putter Randy Matson. O’Hara, one of the founders of the American Basketball Association, says the I.T.A. will make its debut next year with as many as 48 meets in the U.S., Canada and Europe. There will be $500 first prizes in twelve different events, including two for women. Looking ahead, Ryun figures that “a good year could be worth $18,000 and up at the beginning.” That may sound like nothing more than carfare to a basketball bonus baby. Not to Ryun, who is a photographer by trade. Last year the rangy miler, one of the world’s most outstanding athletes, earned a grand total of $8,000.

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