Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Don't Quit, Damn It!"
Liquori vs Keino, 1970



This 1970 Martin Luther King Freedom Games 1500 meter race took place one year prior to Liquori's famous "Dream Mile" race against Jim Ryun in the 1971 version of this event. Here, Liquori is running on his home track at Villanova against the reigning Olympic 1500 meter champion, Kip Keino. This race stands as one of the most controversial races of the 1970s because of the dispute between (1) those who believe that Kip Keino purposely slowed down to let Liquori win on his own track (Keino allegedly told track photographer Jeff Johnson -- who took the photo above -- that it would have been "unsportsmanlike" under the circumstances to beat Liquori) and (2) those who argue that Keino went out too fast (1:56.6 through 800 meters) and -- not very fit at the time -- cratered over the final 200 meters, and lost to Liquori "fair and square." When Liquori passed Keino (who was practically standing still) he shouted at the Olympic gold medalist: "Don't quit, damn it!"

Here is the video of the race -- you decide which school of thought is correct.

By the way, three additional bits: (1) Kip Keino's son Kippy later ran at Villanova. (2) That's Donal Walsh on the infield in the photo above. (3) This is the first Villanova race I ever eye-witnessed live, at the age of 12.

2 comments:

  1. As I remember it, the real reason Kip Keino slowed down some time on the last lap was because a spectator called him (a bad name), an insult, and Kip lost his spirit to win. Keino was actually about to increase his lead but gradually slowed to almost a jog and barely had enough spirit to hold on to second. In fact, Kip felt for dropping out of the race completely but was was a bit obligated to at least finish the race in front of all those people. Kip was obviously far superior to his competitors and would have scored a remarkable time. He did not tire,and would've "easily" won. Marty won under fortunate circumstances and Keino was set on winning that race as anyone else. I know the name Kip was called but I rather not mention it.


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  2. You're correct, Robert. Keino seemed to quit the race, as it were, and moved out to lane 2 or 3 to let Liquori pass. When Liquori yelled "Don't quit, damn it!," Keino just smiled. I don't know about the reasons for Keino slowing, but it seems to me that he willfully surrendered. His front-running in this race was not bad tactics, as he employed the same tactics many times. Even though I am a long-time fan of Liquori, I discount this "victory" over Keino (which I saw with my own eyes when I was 12 years old).

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