MOSCOW 5000 by David Grant


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Focus: the 5000-meter race at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics--in a big lumpy pudding of a novel that only comes alive when dealing with the racing itself but makes many mechanical nods in the direction of KGB/terrorist suspense. All of the international front-runners are sketched at length. The U.S.S.R. has two entrants--breezy Federenko, who feels he's being mistrained to take the lead and burn out the other runners; and Tretsov, who is receiving hypnagogic training so that he will run like a robot with a steady winning pace. Australia's lrvine is the favorite--he has just broken the world's record and has already won a 1980 gold medal. From the U.S. comes Gutierrez, whose style is to run near last, look had, then finish in a superwhiz. Great Britain's entrant is never-say-die Lydall, supposedly over-the-hill at 30. And Uganda's Ochengwe is a strong contender, but he's grieving for his family, victims of Idi Amin. Grant is fine on the runners' training and strategies--too bad he feels obliged to throw in predictable, credibility-killing thrillerisms: Irvine is arrested by the KGB for supposedly selling two pairs of denims on the black market; Gutierrez' girl friend, a Polish gymnast, is kidnapped and won't be released unless he throws the race; and a terrorist group representing the Ukraine freedom fighters has mined the stadium with some gas bombs that will incinerate the 100,000 attendees. The big race itself is a knockout, wonderfully authentic, with the style and running plan for each champion monitored graphically. So track-and-field enthusiasts may well want to put up with the hackneyed suspense padding here in order to enjoy Grant's obvious real interest: the running.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1979
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston