Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 15 Day 7 Rome Olympics

1960 Olympics – Day Seven – September 7
There are prelims in the 4x100, 4x400 and the javelin and finals in the pole vault and discus.
There are four quarterfinals qualifying three to tomorrow’s semis. Great Britain edges the USSR 40.1 to 40.2 in the first race. Switzerland qualifies at 40.8. With 200 meter champ, Livio Berrutti on the anchor leg, Italy delights the hometown fans by winning the second heat over Nigeria 40.0 to 40.1. Venezuela takes third in 41.0. In the third heat Germany sends a message with a 39.5 world record. To say that they were unpressed is an understatement. Greece and Pakistan are runner ups in 41.6 and 42.5. Now it is the US’s turn. Bud Winter has place Ray Norton on the second leg to lessen the burden of responsibility on him. The passing is poor, but the Americans run 39.7 to finish with a huge margin over Canada, 42.1, and Japan, 42.4. Tomorrow will see the semifinals and final.
The first round will have four heats qualifying three for this afternoon’s semifinals. Germany wins the first race in 3:10.4. Canada and Yugoslavia also move on. The West Indies takes the second heat in 3:09.1. Poland and Italy qualify in 3:09.5 and 3:09.8. These are the fastest times of the morning. The third heat is a gimme for South Africa and Great Britain. Switzerland wins in 3:10.7, but since this heat has only four teams and Greece doesn’t finish, South Africa and Great Britain are able to coast in in 3:16.1 and 3:20.5. The final heat belongs to the US in 3:10.4, Ghana and Sweden also qualify in 3:10.5 and 3:10.7. Czechoslovakia has to be content with the fastest non qualifying time, 3:11.2. Surprisingly, Russia runs only 3:12.1 and is eliminated.
Two heats qualifying three for tomorrow’s final. Effort is ratcheted up a notch in the afternoon. To the sorrow of the Italian fans, Italy is edged out. The Italians run a creditable 3:07.7, but South Africa (3:06.4), Germany (3:07.4) and Great Britain (3:07.5) are faster. The US wins the second heat in 3:08.4. West Indies (3:09.2) and Switzerland (3:09.7) also live to run another day.
The qualifying distance for tomorrow’s finals is 74 meters (242-9 1/2) and surprisingly some big names don’t make the cut. The most prominent among them are the world’s longest thrower, Bill Alley of the US, who is waiting for his mark to be approved as the world record, and former world record holder Egil Danielsen of Norway. Two javelins are approved for this competition, the metal Seefab from Sweden and the wooden Sportartikles from Finland. Alley has not thrown well since switching to the Seefab and today is no different. He musters only 221-0, over 60 feet short of his pending record. Danielson gets closer, but his 239-3 only earns him a seat in the stands tomorrow. Alley’s Kansas teammate, Terry Beucher, also fails to make the cut with a 223-5 1/2 effort. The only American in the finals will be current record holder, Al Cantello, who has the second best throw of the day, 261-6 1/2. Poland’s Janis Sidlo assumes the role of favorite with a prodigious 279-4.
An apology is necessary here. The trials were held Monday, the fifth day of the games, and your overworked reporter missed them. Chief among the causalities were Melbourne silver medalist George Roubanis of Greece and UCLA and the US’s Dave Clark who injured himself warming up and could do only 13-9. Now this is not to say it was a day without drama. Twelve were to qualify for Wednesday’s final. Ron Morris, who had finished a close second to Don Bragg in the US trials, was in trouble. With the bar at 4.40 meters (14-1 1/4), Morris misses three times and is apparently out. Fortunately for him, many others have the same problem. Only ten clear this height, so two more make it on fewer misses. Morris is one. Roubanis, with the same height, is not.
Now let’s fast forward to today. After nearly all the vaulters pass the opening heights (the first was 12-5), the competition begins in earnest at 14-1 1/4. At 14-5 1/4 world record holder Don Bragg misses his first attempt. He appears nervous. Apparently the vaulters weren’t on the clock, as Hal Bateman writes that Bragg was at the top of the runway for over five minutes before making a successful second attempt, thus producing a chorus of whistles (the equivalent of booing in the US) from the heavily European crowd. He wouldn’t miss again for awhile.
With the bar at 14-11, the field had been pared to seven and Puerto Rico’s Rolando Cruz is the leader by virtue of an unsullied performance. This height eliminates three more vaulters and now only Bragg, Morris, Cruz and Finland’s Eeles Landstrom remain. The next height, 15-1 1/8 (4.60), drops Cruz and Landstrom with the Finn getting the bronze medal on misses.
Reminiscent of the US trials, all we have left are Morris and Bragg with Bragg leading on misses. The US vaulters agree to raise the bar to 4.70 (15-5) instead of the planned 4.65. Bragg is up first. He puts the pressure on Morris by clearing on his first attempt. Now the USC grad will have to not only clear this height, but the next to win. After two bad misses, he comes close, but a miss is a miss and the gold medal goes to Tarzan as he watches.
With the competition decided, Bragg has the bar raised to 4.82 (15-9 3/4) in an effort to break his own world record. He has two close misses and, with darkness and cold settling in, he crushes the bar on his third attempt. The competition is over after six hours and 46 minutes. The Americans have gone 1-2.
Ron Morriss, Don Bragg, Eeles Lindstrom

Yesterday defending champion Al Oerter looked dominant. Can he carry that over to today? An unwieldy field of 22 throwers has qualified for this final. It is going to take awhile to sort this out. You only hope they have all brown bagged it and brought a paperback to fill the lonely hours between throws.
Big Al’s main competition appears to be the co-world record holders, teammate Rink Babka and Poland’s Edmund Piatkowski, and teammate Dick Cochran. Big Rink, throwing 6th, emphasizes this by taking the lead with 190-4. Oerter, throwing 11th can’t quite match that with his 189-1. Piatkowski can manage only 177-4 and Cochran fouls. Russian Viktor Kompaneyets pops 180-7 1/2 to move into the bronze medal spot. While the veterans fail to improve on the second go round, Cochran rallies to pop 179-7 1/2. None of these five improve in the third round, but Hungary’s Jozsef Szecenyi throws 179-11 1/2 thereby dropping Cochran to fifth.
With the elimination of 16 throwers, things pick up. The Russian and the Americans don’t improve and Piatkowski fouls, but Szecenyi is feeling his oats, improving to 181-2 and now sits in third. With two rounds left, it is Babka, Oerter, Szecenyi, Kompaneyets, Piatkowski and Cochran. The two big guys are eight feet ahead, but the remaining four are separated by only a foot and a half.
The medal complexion changes suddenly and dramatically in the fifth round. Oerter puts it together and the result is an Olympic record of 194-1 1/2. Babka throws 188-8 1/2, good, but not good enough. Szecenyi seemingly cements his hold on third with his best effort of the day, 183-0 1/2, only to have the bronze medal rug pulled out from under him when NCAA champ Cochran comes through under pressure with a 187-6 effort. No one improves in the final round and three US flags are hung as the national anthem plays. It is the fourth US sweep of the games.


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