Moses is still the man to beat

The Laureus Sports Academy chairman believes his astonishing 400m hurdles record will stand for some time.

ABU DHABI // The lifeblood of world-class sport is its continued ability to keep setting new standards. Records, they say, are made to be broken. Even when Bob Beamon almost leapt out of the long jump pit at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, that remarkable mark of 8.90 metres was eventually overtaken, 23 years later, by Mike Powell's jump of 8.95m.

It is also 23 years since Ed Moses established his own incredible record feat of going 122 successive races in the 400 metres hurdles without defeat. There is no sign, however, of that achievement being even matched, let alone surpassed. Moses is a track-and-field legend and the great man was in Abu Dhabi yesterday in his role as chairman of the Laureus Sports Academy reflecting modestly on those heroic achievements spanning an entire decade.

Moses, 54, completes 10 years at the helm of the renowned organisation at tonight's World Sports Awards ceremony at Emirates Palace hotel. "I think as I get older the likelihood is diminishing of somebody else having that kind of winning streak," he says. "Michael Johnson [the versatile American sprinter] got about half way. A couple of other athletes had long winning streaks. [Sprinter] Marion Jones had one of over 40 but 122 is looking pretty good right now.

"I don't think about it being beaten. I see it as a record that could be there for some time. "I never thought that I would do it but that's how things unfolded. "I look back and conclude that I was paying great attention to the job I was doing for a long period of time. It was definitely no joke, though. A very serious business. "At no stage did I think like quitting. It was great to get up and go at that level every day. I loved it."

When Moses finally hung up his running shoes after collecting the bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics - he had taken gold in 1976 and 1984 and would have been a racing certainty to win in Moscow in 1980 but for the American boycott of that Olympiad - he made a complete break from his love affair with his sport. "I am not a good spectator," he said. "I look at athletics occasionally on television but even at an event as big as the Olympics it is difficult for me to sit and watch.

"My whole life had been on the warm-up field and the running track," he says. The chance to become figurehead of the Laureus Academy when it was formed in 2000 was the perfect new challenge for Moses who has applied the same degree of dedication to the job as he did to his pursuit of athletic excellence. He was moved by Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, who was a guest speaker at the first Awards ceremony in Monaco when Tiger Woods, Marion Jones and Manchester United were the winners of the three main prizes.

The quotation from Mandela that evening that "sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite in a way that little else does," is etched in the Moses memory bank for frequent repetition on his global travels. The Laureus Academy has made rapid progress since under Moses's leadership. "We initially started out as a foundation without much direction working on a budget of US$1 million (Dh3.67m) per year," he adds

"That turnover has multiplied enormously, especially over the last three years. "More than 1,200 people have taken part in the ballots from 80 countries. "The latest elitist gathering in the UAE capital is the biggest yet with 146 famous sporting personalities joining the Academy members and awards nominees for what promises to be a lavish affair. "This is the fourth new city we have visited and it is a city that has become known for attracting high-quality sporting events," said Moses, who promised that he will continue to strive to showcase his prestigious annual event in different environments.

"We are bringing this here to prove that Abu Dhabi is worthy of having these big sports events. There are a fantastic list of nominees this year and it is going to be an exciting evening."