http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQmqEIYI-GU The finish of the Marathon
The end of the Olympics and the September 1960 issue
The last of the events in the stadium finished two days ago. Now it is September 10 and the marathon field is lining up for the start. There is no clear favorite although Sergey Popov of the USSR, Osvaldo Suarez of Argentina and Rhadi Ben Abdesselem of Morocco are given a good chance. 10,000 bronze medalist Dave Power of Australia would be in that group except that he is ill. Melbourne champion Alain Mimoun is in the field as well, but is only a long shot. The Americans are John Kelley, Gordon McKenzie and Alex Breckenridge.
The race starts at 5:30 in the evening near the tomb of Italy’s Unknown Soldier and will finish under the Arch of Constantine. Arthur Keily of Great Britain, Aurele Van Den Driessche of Belgium, Rhadi and the barefoot Ethiopian, Abebe Bikila, move to the lead and run together through 15 kilometers in 48:02, extremely fast considering that most of the early going has been uphill. Between 15K and 20K the Africans drop the Europeans and it becomes a two man race.
Bikila is as raw a rookie as you can find. Previous to this year he has never run a marathon. His first was a 2:36. In the Ethiopian Olympic Trials he demonstrated his talent with a 2:21:23 on a difficult course at altitude. Lafayette Smith writes, “Bikila’s main attribute, outside of his natural talent, was a complete innocence as to what was too fast and what was too slow. His mind was uncluttered with statistics and imaginary barriers.”
Apparently this is an attribute Rhadi shares. He has been a member of the French army for seven years, yet does not speak French. (I’m thinking this must have complicated close order drills.) Two days previously he ran the 10,000, a race in which he was told to always stay in second. He followed instructions until the field came up on a lapped runner. Rhadi, thinking this was a previously undetected leader coming back to the pack, moved into first place and tucked in behind the lapped runner. To his surprise, the field moved by, leaving him confused and eventually in 14th place.
At 20K they have opened up a 26 second lead. At 25K it stretches to 1:24 and by 30K they are 2:23 ahead of third place Barry McGee of New Zealand. As dusk turns to darkness, the race is clearly between the Moroccan and the Ethiopian. Bikila has been told to not push the pace until after 30k, but now whatever he does is matched by Rhadi.
The pair continues through the streets of Rome following the lead motorcycle and illuminated by lighting from accompanying vehicles. The passageway narrows as crowds line the streets. At 40K they are still together. Less than 2200 meters remain. Then the break comes. The barefoot Bikila is slowly pulling away. At 41K he has 50 yards. Only 1200 meters, the equivalent of three laps on the track, are left and it is Bikila all the way as he stretches the margin to 150 yards at the finish. One can only wonder that if Rhadi had not run the 10,000 two days before the outcome might have been different.
The time is a world best 2:15:16. Rhadi finishes 25 seconds back. McGee, also a 10K survivor (26th), has actually run the fastest since 30K. He picks up the bronze medal in 2:17:18. Russians Konstantin Vorobiev takes fourth over teammate Popov by nine seconds in 2:19:09. Kelly takes 19th in 2:24:58. Breckenridge is 30th in 2:29:38. McKenzie is 48th in 2:35:16. Sixty-two finish.
A precedent is broken by coverage of the women’s events. Wilma Rudolph becomes a household name by winning the sprints (11.0w) and (24.0) and anchoring the 4 x 1 (44.0). The best intrinsic mark belongs to Yolanda Balas of Rumania who high jumps 6-0 7/8 (1.85 meters) to win by an astounding 5 1/2 inches. The rest of the events are won by Russians, led by the Press sisters.
Women were the second class citizens of the Olympics in 1960. There were only three flat individual races; the 100, 200 and 800. The hurdles were 80 meters. There was only one relay. Field events were more traditional: HJ, BJ, JT, DT and SP. There was no pentathlon or heptathlon.
Two post Olympic meets are reported. The first is in the Olympic stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. The competition – a few West Germans and the Greek team – was minimal, but there were a few good marks. Oerter and Neider throw 191-2 and 63-10. The real fun comes in events of 400 meters and up where the track enters the equation. Bert Nelson gives us the description. “A pair of 200 meter straightaways (when extended a bit beyond the curve at one end) are only 53 feet distant from each other, providing extremely sharp corners. One straightaway drops five feet, but the other runs uphill the same height, and the sprints and hurdles are always run upgrade.” With that in mind, Ted Woods’ 47.4 400 is pretty darn good. Jack Yerman and Dyrol Burleson run 1:51.1 and 1:51.2 800s. Peter Close’s 3:50.8 win over Germany’s Adolph Schwarte (3:51.7) and Ernie Cunliffe (3:52.2) merits praise under the circumstances. But the performance of the day has to be that of Bob Soth. He wins the 10,000 in 31:40. Think about this for a moment. That would be fifty 53 foot turns, 25 downhills and 25 uphills.
There may have been more post-Olympic meets, but the only other one reported in this issue is the USA vs. British Commonwealth meet in London September 14. Given the fact that a driving rain falls during most of the meet, the times are surprisingly good.
The most significant event is the two mile relay which produces a world record. The US lines up Ernie Cunliffe, Tom Murphy, Jack Yerman and Jerry Siebert against the Commonwealth’s Tony Blue (Australia), George Kerr (BWI), Tom Farrell (GB) and Peter Snell (NZ).
Blue’s 1:51.0 edges Cunliffe by two tenths on the opening leg. Kerr opens ground on Murphy, 1:51.9 to 1:52.5. Yerman, obviously feeling better than he had during the games, blisters a 1:49.1 to take the lead from Farrell who runs 1:50.3. This gives Siebert a three yard advantage at the exchange, but also puts him directly in the sights of the Olympic champion, Snell. The Cal Bear responds bravely, taking the first go round out in 50.8, but Snell is just waiting. Siebert, knowing that if Snell gets by it is over, holds on to the lead until the top of the home straight but then can do no more. The Olympic champ powers by, leaving no doubt. Siebert runs an excellent 1:46.6, but Snell is otherworldly. His split is an astounding 1:44.8.
And now for that world record thing. The Commonwealth has run 7:18.0, the fastest time ever, but not a world record because the runners were not from the same country. All star teams don’t count. This means that the record belongs to Cunliffe, Murphy, Yerman and Siebert for their 7:19.4. Oddly, Yerman and Siebert already own the world record. The previous mark of 7:20.9 was set by the Cal team that included them, Maynard Orme and Don Bowden.
It looks like Willie May who has been getting closer to Lee Calhoun with each race, finally has his number. He beats the Olympic champ 14.1 to 14.2. As he had edged Calhoun in Athens, 14.1 or both, it is his second consecutive victory, but, obviously is too little, too late.
The American record in the two mile falls when Bill Dellinger out legs Max Truex 8:43.8 to 8:44.6. This wasn’t enough to win however, as 5000 champion Murray Halberg drops the hammer on a 56.4 final quarter to win easily in 8:41.8.
Herb Elliot does Halberg one better. He toys with the mile field for three laps before going to the afterburners for a 54.1 final go around to post a convincing 3:58.5 win.
Once again Oerter and Nieder are the stars of the field events. Oerter has six throws better than the 187-11 Rink Babka can produce and caps his year at 194-0 1/2. Nieder sets a European all comers record in the shot with a put of 64-9 1/2.
Before we close this issue, here is a collection of odds and ends. Ralph Boston traded his USA Olympic badge for an Italian one, unaware that the one he now wore represented him as an invalid. This caused people to stand and give him their seats on busses. Before he figured it out he must have thought the Italians were the most polite people on earth…….Ray Norton was correct when he said he was done with track. He has just signed to play football for the Forty Niners. Rafer Johnson is also through. He has agreed to a long term acting contract with 20th Century Fox……Russia and the United Arab Republic have made bids for the 1968 Olympics. The proposed sites are Moscow and Cairo.
Let’s end with a quote by Jesse Owens. “As my records fell, I found myself with mixed emotions. At first I was resentful. It was like owning a toy and treasuring it for many years - then having it suddenly snatched away. There was disappointment and a great feeling of emptiness. Then I realized that I hadn’t lost this toy after all, but that I still had it – intangibly – in the boys who came after me. I realized that I had set the records which drove these boys to new heights.”
Just so that you are not left in doubt, I will tell you that the last page, page 32, still is the property of Cliff Severn Sporting Goods and Adidas. Prompt delivery and team prices are promised.
/Three of New Zealand's world record holders- Yvette Williams in Long Jump in 1954 and Murray Halberg. Who is the strapping lad in the middle? See below.