Obea Moore

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Obea Moore
Personal information
Nationality  American
Born (1979-01-10) January 10, 1979 (age 35)
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight 160 lb (73 kg)
Sport Track and field
Event(s) 200 metres, 400 metres
Coached by James Robinson
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 200 m: 20.77 (Norwalk 1996)
400 m: 45.14 (Santiago 1995)

William Obea Moore (born January 10, 1979) is a former American sprinter. Particularly excelling in the 400 metres, Moore holds the World Youth Best in this event. He was expected to be the next great American quarter miler, to follow Michael Johnson as Olympic champion, but never lived up to the expectations.[1]

Starting as an eight-year old, running for the Los Angeles Jets youth club under coach James Robinson,[1] Moore went on to set American youth records in the Bantam (9–10), the Midget (11–12), the Youth (13–14), and the Intermediate division (15–16)—some of which are still standing—, adding the 200 metres record in the Intermediate division, and was part of the 4 × 400 metres relay team in the Youth division.[2]

Moore ran for John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, though his mother arranged for him to continue to run under Robinson.[1] His freshman year, his team won the CIF California State Meet 4x400 relay. In 1995, his sophomore year, Moore won the 400, beating future World Champion, Tyree Washington by a half a second.[3] He was also second in the 200 and again anchored his team to winning the relay in remarkable come from behind fashion.[4] Later in the season, he represented the United States at the 1995 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships in Santiago, Chile,[5] where he set the still standing World Youth Best in the 400 metres at 45.14.[6]

And the following year Moore won both the 400, 200 and anchored the relay to the state meet record. At major relay events around the country, including the Penn Relays, Moore became a trackside legend as one of the best,[7] a high school junior being clocked doing 45 second laps.[8]

With high expectations of having a chance to be the first high school athlete to qualify for the Olympics since Dwayne Evans and Lam Jones in 1976,[1] Moore qualified for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. Those dreams were dashed by a 7th place finish in the semi-finals.[9] Later in 1996, Moore won the World Junior Championships in Sydney, Australia under cool conditions. Moore expected many better things to come.[1]

Moore looked at 1997, his senior year of high school, as the chance to set records out of sight. Instead, he suffered a minor injury early in the season. Still focused on setting records, Moore ignored the problem and continued to press. Some have also suggested Moore lost focus and was involved in the gang activities of his lifelong friends, which Moore denies. But the effects of expectations and celebrity certainly were a factor on the 17 year old's life. After three months of abusing his body, he reached the point where he could barely walk, records and championships were out of the question. Moore aspired to go to nearby powerhouse University of Southern California, but his SAT and then ACT scores left him .1 point away from eligibility. In order to improve his academic standing Moore went first to Pasadena City College, then Long Beach City College. Further attempts took him across the continent to Morehouse College where a depressed Moore spent his time in injury rehabilitation. His heart and aspirations were still in Southern California. He got into fights and was kicked out of school. The following year, Moore ended up at Life University, an NAIA college. After a successful and healthy fall training season, he entered the Pomona Pitzer Invitational, a tune up meet before the Mt. SAC Relays. Facing serious competition from people with marks equivalent to Moore's high school junior accomplishments, Moore pulled out of the race at the last minute.

"He couldn't go to the line," recalls then Life University head coach Mark Spino. "If he just was even around, people had such high expectations of him, it was hard for him to start anyplace and very hard for him to have intermediary goals."[1]

The psychological effects from this event led to a crushing stigma about high level racing. His girlfriend died, Moore began drinking, his academics suffered and Moore again became ineligible. He next moved to Wallace State Community College where Moore regained eligibility and ran impressively in practice. But when he went to the first Indoor meet of the season again the psychological pressure got to him, scratching from the race 10 minutes before the gun. Moore eventually disappeared from the college. Back in California, Moore has made repeated starts at regaining form, seeking help from his youth coach Robinson and others. After showing flashes of his original brilliance come periods of disappearances.

"I'm just hoping and praying he does get the stability, because people all across the country are still pulling for him and want him to be successful," Robertson says. "I'm at a loss what to do. But I believe inside he's a great kid, he's always been a great kid, he's always done everything that I've asked him to do on the track, but he just got caught up with the wrong people and the wrong environment. And that's a tragedy. I believe his intentions are very, very true and he really wants to [come back], but like any addict he can't get past it.
"One thing I know for sure, if he really wanted to, he could still be the greatest quartermiler in the world today — just off of talent. Every time I worked with him, what I did see was that the talent is still there. If he really worked and did what he needs to do, in my mind, there's still nobody better. All these guys I see going around the track today wouldn't have a chance of beating him if he really did what he was supposed to do."


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Preceded by
United States William Reed
Boys' World Youth Best Holder, 400 metres
2 September 1995 – present