Friday, January 18, 2019

V 9 N. 3 "(Re)Presenting Wilma Rudolph", A Book Review by Grace Butcher





Rita Liberti & Maureen M. Smith. (Re)Presenting Wilma Rudolph. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015. 328pp.

Reviewed by Grace Butcher.   .

   Authors Liberti and Smith take a close look at the story of Wilma Rudolph, one of the greatest sprinters of all times (3 gold medals in the 1960 Rome Olympics: 100, 200, and 4 x 100 relay) through the lens of current events, “by examining who is served by continually romanticizing the track star and her achievements for the past half-century.” In seven chapters, arranged thematically rather than chronologically, plus a lengthy introduction and conclusion (along with almost a hundred pages of notes, bibliography, and index) the authors dig deeply into events as presented in the media of those times. They focus on errors, omissions, and misrepresentations that now seem obvious with hindsight in our own era of intense and instant scrutiny of the lives of famous athletes.

   The erroneous identification of Rudolph as the first woman ever to win three gold medals in the Olympics is quickly corrected although it has persisted over the decades.  “What is safe to say is that Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympiad...also the first African American woman....” 

   Chapter One describes the behind-the-scenes activity, the planning and plotting, as Clarksville Tennessee became the focal point of the nation for the brief period of Rudolph's homecoming celebration.  Rudolph's unusually bold request to public officials that her homecoming events, the parade and dinner, be integrated, led to Clarksville's claim to being in the forefront of a new and liberal South. In reality, few changes would occur in the status of Blacks in that city or elsewhere in the South for years after her few moments of glory.

   Chapter Two, subtitled “The Politics of Race and Beauty,” calls our attention to Rudolph's image as taken up by the press: “...a slender beauty...the legs of a showgirl.” (Sports columnist Jerry Footlick) . Or Newsweek: “...unlike many American female athletes, she looks feminine.” Sports Illustrated called her a “cafe au lait runner,” a reference to her light skin color. Mademoiselle: “...the very embodiment of black grace, a beautiful, flowing, lissome sight....”  Her athletic accomplishments were often in the background of an article as if proving that her beauty, femininity, grace, poise, and sweetness were her most important attributes.

     At the sold-out (14,000) Los Angeles Invitational indoor track meet in Jan. 1961, her presence completely overshadowed that of any other Olympians, male or female. One of the photos in this book shows her prior to the meet, in a form-fitting skirt and frilly blouse, feminine above all else, jogging on the indoor track, followed by Olympians Dickie Howard and Don Bragg appropriately dressed in their USA warm up suits. This photo, ironically, is the only one in the book that shows her on a track, “running.” Some photos of her Olympic victories—or any other of her races—would have been welcome, but Liberti and Smith have chosen to de-emphasize her athletic accomplishments, as much as the media of her day seemed to do, in their goal of spotlighting, instead, everything that was not brought to light during Rudolph's journey to Rome and beyond.
   In Chapter Three we see the unexpected connection between the Cold War and female athletes in the US.  In the famous dual meets between the USA and the USSR, the Soviets granted their women equal respect and status as athletes, their points in the meets being totaled with the men's to determine the outcome of the competition. The US insisted on scoring separately, to be able to say that while our women lost, our men won. The incongruity of this approach was not lost on athletes and fans alike. The obvious reason for it was that at the time US women were not of the caliber of the Soviet women whose training was serious and intense year round, providing an unfavorable comparison of the US “democratic” way and the USSR's “communist” commitment to excellence.

   The government-funded Soviet programs “designed to develop fully the most talented, irrespective of gender...cast a rare spotlight on US female athletes....” The beauty issue continued to rear its ugly head.  However “the nation's fears of being beaten by the Russians eclipsed anxieties of mannish women running around a track.”  It could be said the real winners of the Cold War were all the young American girls so long denied opportunity to excel in sports.

   Ironically, Rudolph's victories also served to call attention to our years of racism and segregation. We glorified our Black athletes only when it was politically expedient and relegated them to obscurity once the spotlight was turned off.  The 1961 film, Wilma Rudolph, Olympic Champion, produced by the United States Information Agency, “features the athlete's accomplishments on the track, as it simultaneously obscures the racial injustices she endured away from it.”

    Rudolph's only known participation in public protest, a failed attempt, with others, to be served at a Clarksville restaurant in June of 1963, received little notice in the press other than a small headline in the Pittsburgh Courier that read “Wilma Finds Key to City Doesn't Work.” By 1964, with husband Robert Eldridge, her high school sweetheart, she had settled into relative domesticity and didn't even mention the incident in her 1977 autobiography, apparently opting to remain “a Cold War icon rather than a civil rights soldier.”

   Chapter Four deals with Rudolph's childhood of illnesses and disability: “double pneumonia, scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles, chickenpox a tonsillectomy and an appendectomy” plus a leg brace from age five, worn for some years. However, by the time she was in high school, and later in college at Tennessee State under famous coach Ed Temple, her running ability brought her the feeling of freedom that her actual daily life did not. Even in traveling with the highly respected Tigerbelles track team she experienced all the restrictions in transportation, hotels, and restaurants as she always had throughout her earlier life.

    Discovering she was pregnant in her senior year of high school seemed barely an issue. She says, “The black girls stayed in school pregnant, like nothing was wrong at all…and there really wasn't any stigma to it....” She enrolled at Tennessee State shortly after having her daughter who went to live with Rudolph's sister while Wilma pursued her Olympic dreams. She had actually won a bronze relay medal at age 16 in the 1956 Olympics, a feat little noticed by press or community. Her goal was gold four years later. But after achieving that goal, she settled into family life, finding few opportunities for competition and focusing instead on the value of relationships within her very large family. (Her dad's two marriages had produced twenty-two children.)

    “Biopics, Nostalgia, and Family in the 1970's” is the subtitle for Chapter Five, Wilma. The famous Olympic documentary film maker, Bud Greenspan produced the film of that name saying, “I wanted hers to be a true sports story.” Yet her relationship with her father seems to be the main focus of the film. The authors argue that Greenspan presents a nostalgic and unrealistic look back at the significance of family in the 50's: “Rudolph's life and her experiences are flattened, simplified, and made two-dimensional” as the film neglects “larger social issues and forces.” Liberti and Smith take issue with Greenspan's overlooking her real life as a “poor black girl raised in the Jim Crow South,” and giving audiences only “cinematic comfort food.”

   The four major male figures in her life—her father, her high school track coach, her coach at TSU, and  later her husband—command so much screen time in the film in their directives and decisions about her future that her athletic accomplishments seem “barely an afterthought...throughout the film.” Greenspan's “determination to be inspirational” leaves us viewing Rudolph's track career as if through the wrong end of a telescope while magnifying a family life that was lived under the shadow of the  racism of the times. In films, children's books, newspapers, and magazines from Rudolph's own era, we're never told the whole truth of the struggle by  female athletes in general and Black female athletes in particular for recognition and opportunity.

    Chapter Six re-emphasizes the limitations of biographies written for children. The twenty or so books about Wilma focus on her overcoming a crippling disability in early childhood, persisting in her Olympic goal, and eventually triumphing through hard work and determination. In these books her life is “seen as being under the total command of the track star herself,” while in reality, every step of her journey was made with great difficulty as she struggled with the discrimination and social injustice of the 50's and 60's. Liberti and Smith maintain that “[B]ooks written for children about Wilma Rudolph remain mired in [the] past....”  They see these stories as “devoid of any political and social context...filled instead with stereotypes and misrepresentations of [prevailing attitudes about] disability.”

   The last chapter shows us, in part through the few illustrations, the various earlier efforts to memorialize Rudolph: a statue, an obscure historical marker, a neglected section of local highway bearing her name, an event center in Clarksville and a dorm and indoor track at TSU also named for her. In 2004 a twenty-three cent stamp bearing her likeness was issued by The United States Postal Service as part of its Distinguished American series. At the time, that was the price of a postcard. 

   In their conclusion, the authors say, “We often lamented her early death [from a brain tumor in 1994 at age 54]...and the loss of her voice and the opportunity to 're-write' her story.” In this book, they have, in a sense, done just that. They find it less than honest to separate this great athlete from every nuanced detail of her difficult life and to focus only on the inspirational story which has prevailed for many decades.  One must delve into the history of the segregated South and weave it into every aspect of her too-brief life in order for any story about her to be true and complete.

   Re-writing/revising/ re-presenting history can be a daunting task. It couldn't happen in Rudolph's own time, but the authors have dug deeply and made it happen now. Liberti and Smith seem to wish that the media back in the day had told it like it was, and that Wilma Rudolph could have used her golden powers for social change. Instead she chose post-Olympic domesticity and relative obscurity.

   Perhaps she had no golden powers then. She was Black, she was female, she ran.


Lest it be forgotten,  Grace Butcher was several times US women's 880 champion and member of the US team that competed against the Soviet Union in Philadelphia.  Grace has had a multi-faceted career as a runner, poet, professor of English, motorcycle racer and writer, and mother. She was one of the major movers in the effort to get US officialdom to allow women to run distances over 220 yards.   She lives outside of Cleveland, OH.  Grace is featured in Amby Burfoot's 2016 book  

First Ladies of Running: 22 Inspiring Profiles of the Rebels, Rule Breakers, and Visionaries Who Changed the Sport Forever


For some of her literary work we refer you this this posting on our blog .  
Grace Butcher  clik here.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

V 9 N. 2 "Running With the Buffaloes" Twenty Years Down the Pike

Once Again Running With The Buffaloes


By Paul O’Shea


Some books merit a second read.


When the University of Colorado and its Dani Jones won the 2018 NCAA women’s team
and individual cross country titles, I remembered Chris Lear’s revelation, Running with
the Buffaloes.


More than two decades ago a twenty-four-year old Lear shadowed the Buffs, from
pre-season running camp through to the NCAA championship race. From that
investment he wrote Running with the Buffaloes, the book that came to be called a
“cult classic” by the chaps at LetsRun.  “Classic,” without question. “Cult,” an adjective
too far for legions who cherish the sport of cross country.


But a book well deserving a second read, if not a first.


Embedded with the Colorado team in 1998, Lear trailed the runners on his bike
(recuperating from surgery for a plantar fascia tear).  He wrote daily entries in a journal.
He grew close to Adam Goucher who would win the individual NCAA title that year.
Lear monitored Goucher’s workouts such as the run of 22 miles in two hours and three
minutes off collegiate, rather than professional, marathon training. He mourned with the
team as it confronted the sudden death of one of its top runners.  


Chris Lear brought his own significant credentials to the task.  At Princeton, he was a two-
time captain of the cross country team and All American.


Goucher wrote in the book’s foreword, “Chris was there through it all, every step of every
run.  He witnessed each moment of pain, distress, excitement, and happiness with every
workout. Almost instantly, his presence among the team became natural, he fit in, and he
became one of us.”


I picked up Buffaloes again because I wanted to find out how they did it twenty years ago.
The Wetmore formula, the camaraderie built from shared sacrifice apparently stood the
test over decades. Lear revealed the planning, work, commitment and costs paid by the
young men who were unrelenting in their drive to win Nationals. Wetmore is the only
NCAA cross country coach to win all four NCAA titles—men’s and women team and
individual titles.  Since taking the Colorado job in 1992 his teams have won five men’s
and three women’s NCAA team crowns.


While Wetmore is known for building high performance teams, he’s also played a
significant role in developing collegiate and professional talent. In addition to Goucher,
University of Colorado alums include Dathan Ritzenheim, Jenny Simpson, Jorge Torres,
Emma Coburn and Kara Grgas-Wheeler (now Kara Goucher).  Each has won an NCAA,
World or Olympic medal.


Since Running with the Buffaloes’ publication in 2000, no other writer has taken on the
challenge of writing the tick-tock, the chronology of a cross country team’s season. Lear’s
book reminds us of another engrossing day-to-day accounting, Daniel James Brown’
best-selling The Boys in the Boat, the saga of the 1936 Olympic gold medal winning
eight-oared crew.


Buffaloes wasn’t a one-time effort. Lear also wrote Sub 4:00: Alan Webb and the Quest for
the Fastest Mile.


Midway through the season the team sustained an almost unimaginable tragedy. Chris
Severy, its No. 2 was killed in an accident when he lost control riding his mountain bike
down a steep road, west of Boulder. A Rhodes Scholar candidate, Severy had been a
member of the l995 U.S. World cross country team.


The Wetmore formula takes few high profile high school runners into the Colorado fold,
works them heavily (100-mile weeks are common) and makes modifications to the
training plan.  A disciple of the legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard (see under
Peter Snell), it’s a high mileage regimen, with the Sunday run of twenty or more miles up
Boulder’s Magnolia Road weekly oil change.  Wetmore records each day’s workout, and
how it affects each runner. Moving up in mileage from their high school days, first year
runners unable to handle the program are sorted. Few walk-ons make the team.  


Wetmore adjusts his plan, sometimes in imperceptible ways.  LetsRun writer Jonathan
Gault interviewed Jorge Torres in 1999 after the Buffaloes finished seventh in the
Nationals, an unusually poor showing. Torres told Gault that the team had taken a private
plane to the meet in Indianapolis.  Wetmore considered the perk, said the team would not
repeat that transportation choice, and from then on the team flew commercial.


This past November, just after the Nationals, Gault commemorated the twentieth
anniversary of Lear’s sojourn with the team in a lengthy LetsRun interview with the
author.   


Lear exhibited refreshing modesty about the book’s acclaim.  He told Gault: “The fact
that it’s still being talked about twenty years later and I still hear from people that are
reading it for the first time and saying that man, they really like it, that means a lot to me…
Every once in a while I’m lucky enough to hear about people that say (it’s) had some
positive influence on their life or on their running.  And who can ask for more than that?
It’s pretty awesome.”


Now in his mid-forties, Lear sells medical devices and lives in Boston.
Meanwhile, in Boulder, now and for the years since landing in a private jet, the Buffs have
learned to love middle seat 27E.


George Roy and Steve:

I'm glad that you are all settled in and anxious to Blog to us all in 2019!
Can't wait!

I read "Running with the Buffaloes" when it came out. It was very informative, uplifting. Just a great read..
Including the tragic early morning episode when their teammate was en route on his downhill bicycle 
run from his cabin to the campus; only to miss a turn he'd taken hundreds of time and, hitting a tree head on: resulting in his death.
Such a shocking loss by his teammates might have made lesser men to lose heart and the NCAA title.

Even more inspiring was the Epic Novel "The Boys in the Boat".
When I first heard to title I thought it might be about Nazi's landing in Argentina  after WWII
But, the story of the U of Washington men, who rowed to victory in the 1936 Olympics, against all odds,
including the obstacles that the German Olympic Officials placed in their path was so inspiring!

Their stories of growing up poor in Washinton and their varied paths to the rowing shed at U of W.
and their lives after the 1936 Games was truly uplifting!!!   5 Stars!

Thanks for reminding me of these great reads!!


John Bork  

Thanks, John,  it was Paul O'Shea who gets the credit for the book review.
George

  Thanks for the blog update.  You have really done us all a service and yourself as well.  All of us have connected with each other in unexpected ways due to your blog, so thanks.

   As for Running with the Buffaloes, I have a love/hate opinion of the book.  Love since it caused me to bump up the mileage for the long distance types, and hate because several runners back in the 1990s were absolutely devoted to mileage when they should not have been, based on this book.  In my opinion it hurt their running. 

   There is no one way to get there because many have been tried.  What is the best method?  (1) lots of short intervals (Igloi), tempo runs (Kenyans), LSD (Lydiard & Wetmore), combination (a very insignificant Schnier).  I think there is no one answer but instead one which meets the needs of the individual and also a coach who can sell his program to the team.
   Bill



Paul O’Shea has participated in cross-country and track and field since before Mrs. Bowerman lost her waffle iron. After a four-decade career in corporate communications Paul coached the high school girls’ cross country team at Oak Knoll School in Summit, New Jersey. His assistant coach was Tim Lear, Chris’s twin brother. A long-time contributor to Cross Country Journal, Paul now writes for Once Upon a Time in the Vest.  He lives in Northern Virginia and can be reached at Poshea17 @ aol.com.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

V 9 N. 1 HIstorical clips of old Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, just released

The Spirit of Oregon Track and Field  Clik Here






The Knight Library at University of Oregon just released this 4min 49 second series of clips from track and field meets at Hayward Field going back to the 1920s and up to the present.  It is for true track and field lovers.  The background narration is uncoordinated to what you are seeing on the screen .  You have to really know your Oregon track history to identify the guys and women appearing in this clip.  One arial view would indicate that there was an adjacent track to Hayward way back when.  It would take a trivia expert of phenomenal ability to identify everyone, but it is a fun film to view and to date only 7 people have witnessed it, so if you make the first ten viewers, you will receive a one year free subscription to this blog.  Good viewing and a great 2019 of track and field.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

V 8 N. 72 Some Idle Thoughts and Memories of Long Time Track ( Athletics) Fan

March 17 2018-03-17


Some Idle Thoughts and Memories of Long Time Track ( Athletics) Fan*

by Geoff Williams


The Carshalton Ponds


I was born in England just to the southwest of London in a town called Carshalton in 1934 and
started High School just as the Second World War finally came to an end.  The school was what
was called a Grammar school and had a boys’ only content.


Sport was a very important part of education in those days and I enjoyed the cross country running
and track and field events-although I was fairly mediocre at each.  I managed to get on the school
cross country team in my later years and had the ( possibly doubtful) privilege of being the first
pupil to represent the school at throwing the javelin. As I had a fairly slight build it was only
because nobody else seemed to want to do it.  My career was a very short one.



I did however find that I enjoyed what we called Athletics and was fortunate in that the White
City-then London’s premier running track was within cycling distance of my home and the sport
was very popular following the 1948 London Olympics.  My first visit to a major meet there was
in 1950 and I immediately became a fan. The stadium could hold about 50000 and usually it would
be full for most meets. To my great regret I never kept any of the programmes and this is largely
a summary of some interesting happenings that I saw at meets from that time until I emigrated
to Canada in 1959 –with a break in 1953-55 while I did my National Service with the RAF in
Holland and Germany.  I also have had occasional memories of meeting some well known athletes
over the years.
White City 1930s

1937 Program



I usually cycled to London with one or two friends and on other occasions would take public
transport.  I am not sure of the actual cost of getting in to the stadium-but I do not think it was
more than about 2 shillings.  The most important meets were the AAA ( National) Championships
and the British Gameswhich used to attract a good number of European and other foreign athletes.  
At other times there were inter city meets between London and usually European Capitals which
featured 2 athletes a side in each event.

Derek Ibbotson
Czech dual meeting?
The first significant race was in 1950 or 1951 and it was a 6 Mile race featuring a young
( I think 19) Gordon Pirie who set a World Record.  It is interesting to note that in those days
many athletes from other Commonwealth countries ran for England. I specifically remember
E. McDonald Bailey a West Indian from Trinidad who had run in the 1948 Olympic 100m final
under the GB colours and in fact won a medal in the 1952 200m.  He had little local competition
and I believe that if he had he could well have competed for the gold in 1948 and 1952.

Gordon Pirie in Action  clik here


E. McDonald Bailey


One meet that stands out for me was in 1952 after the Helsinki Olympics.  It was a dual
meet between the USA and the British Commonwealth ( Empire in those far off times).  The
quality was very high and of course the US won most events handily. I was awed by such giants
as Mal Whitfield, Arthur Wint, Parry O’Brien and Sim Iness, Jim Dillion, and Fortune Gordien
among many others.
Fortune Gordien


Parry O'Brien

Arthur Wint

Mal Whitfield, Herb McKennley



A good friend of mine from school named Ian Boyd was a year ahead of me chronologically
and light years ahead in skills.  He had set school records for the 880yd of a fraction under two
minutes and the mile at just about 4;20. For 1952 these were very good times and he was selected
to run in the London schoolboy mile that year.  He won and to add to our great excitement a
second runner from our school was in the field. Ian went on to Oxford where he ran with
Bannister and others and was picked to go to the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver where he
won bronze in the 880yds and ran in the famous Miracle Mile.  As an addendum to this I emigrated
to Vancouver in 1959 and then went on to Victoria BC where I was a volunteer in the 1994 (then)
Commonwealth Games and had the great experience of meeting Roger Bannister and John Landy
at a luncheon where we had a chat that included talking about Ian .  (although then 60 I was still
schoolboyish enough to take my copy of Bannister’s “First Four Minutes” with me and had both
of them autograph it.)
Empire Games Vancouver 1954
Landy, Halberg, Boyd, Baillie, Bannister


In September 1953 I was called up to serve my National Service in the RAF.  I had decided
to get that out of the way before giving any thought to further education and as a result missed
out on University altogether.  After the obligatory 8 weeks of “square bashing” I was sent to
RAF Fassberg in Germany ( 8 years after the end of WW11).

This was a large station and airfield located on the Luneberger Heide near Hanover and only
about 20 miles from the East/West border.



We were all required to learn to drive as the Russians were considered likely to make a
move on us . I had never driven before but started on a 3-ton Thornycroft truck that was used
for picking up supplies for the Officers mess at a nearby town. I was terrified but seem to have
managed to get the thing running.


 I recall that the turn signal consisted of a long plank behind the driver’s head that had to
be manually pushed out to indicate a turn. In addition one had to turn a crank on the front of
the vehicle to get it going. On one occasion driving on a local road I managed to run into the
back of a horse and cart but happily no humans or animals were injured  and I seem to have
avoided the attention of the local constabulary.


I was only at that station for about six months and I am sure all the natives were relieved
when I was posted to RAF Eindhoven a large city in the south of Holland-the home of Phillips
Electric and now whereyou will find the famous Dutch soccer club PSV Eindhoven.  It was not
an airfield but a supply base for other RAF stations in the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Europe.
No need for driving to evade Russians which was a great relief. It was the only RAF station
in Holland and I spent the next 16 months there until demob-quite happily.  I found out fairly
quickly that if you were able to get on a sports team you could only compete against teams in
Germany which usually took at least two days to reach. I was competitive enough to get on the
cross country and track teams and took several train trips to parts of West Germany. I never
produced any notable results but we had a great time.  We had some dual meets and also
entered in the overall 2nd TAF cross country championships. I believe I finished a glorious
142nd or so. In 1954 we went to a town in Germany for the 2nd TAF track championships .
I ran the 1500m and did not qualify for the finals – not surprising as it was won by a fellow
called John Merriman.


We occasionally had five day weekend passes and I took advantage of them by going-with
a group of friends to both Luxembourg and Paris.  We also enjoyed going into the city of
Eindhoven where the citizens were still well disposed towards us that soon after the war and
where good food and Dutch beer ( Heineken) was to be found.)  I made one trip to Amsterdam
to see a soccer game between a Dutch and a Brazilian team. In the intermission they had a fairly
high level mini track meet. The biggest sports event we attended was the 1955 World Table
Tennis championships in Utrecht.  It was highlighted by being the first time that the Japanese
played in it and they totally dominated.


In September 1955 I was sent back to UK for demob and returned home in time for my
21st birthday.  I seem to recall that I got to the White City that month for one or two meets
but the details escape me.


From then on until I emigrated to Canada in February, 1959 I saw several inter city meets between
London and such European rivals as Warsaw. Paris and Prague as well as the British Games and
AAA championships each year.  These were men only events (the inter city matches) and continued
the idea of two men per side for each event. The quality was very high and we had a lot of top
class Americans running in the open meets. It was a time of great competition following the
breaking of the four minute mile and the Brits always had good middle and longer distance runners.

Pirie and Zatopek

Competing for Prague in ( I think) 1956 was Emil Zatopek and he was a bit late in his career
and was beaten by Pirie and another British runner but still impressed the crowd and got the
obligatory “Zat O Pek”cry.  He autographed a copy of the book on his life by Frantiszek Kozik
after the meet and it is now my prized possession. As Jim Peters was sitting behind us I also got
his autograph.. In the match against Paris Alain Mimoun ran for France and of course the cry
then was “Allez Mimoun”.



When Warsaw came Poland was one of the strongest teams in Europe and included
Kzryszkowiak, Zimny, Chromik and Sidlo amongst other world class athletes.  Some great
competition ensued. They were all floodlit meets and the stands were virtually full every time.
During one of the meets Derek Ibbotson set a new world mile record which of course brought
the crowd to its feet.


In another meet –against a team from the US the meet directors had a wonderful idea.  
They thought it would be great if they turned off the stadium lights during the Hammer Throw.  
It is my recollection that the States were represented by Hal Connolly and Marty Engels and I am
sure the latter was throwing.  They attached fireworks to the hammer and Marty sent it skywards.
As it passed over the nearby High Jump pit the fireworks became detached and the hammer could
not be seen.  Happily it landed safely, but that was the end of that experiment.


The last major meet that I attended before leaving for Canada was the Cardiff Common-
wealth ( Empire) Games in 1958.   I went with two old school friends and we saw the entire
track programme as well as two or three other sports. They put on a marvellous show at the
old Cardiff Arms Park rugby ground .  I believe that there were only two world records but over
all the standards were very high. It proved to be the last major meet for the South Africans who
were soon after banned due to Apartheid,  One of their athletes the superb 440yd hurdler Gert
Potgeiter was one of the record breakers.
Gert Potgieter
I was saddened
to hear that some years after he lost an eye in some form of accident. The other record
went to Anna Pazera of Australia – a refugee from Poland , in the womens javelin throw.

Anna Pazera
 The English team looked
strong but was outperformed by the Aussies and NZ team and the
South Africans got good results. Herb Elliott continued his winning ways by taking both the
880yds and mile.
Elliott takes the Empire Games Mile
Cardiff Wales 1958
Also in the mile was my
old friend and schoolmate Ian Boyd who was near the end of his
career and failed to quality for the mile final much to our great regret.  One of the most exciting
events was the mens hammer. There was a strong rivalry between the England thrower Mike Ellis
and Iqbal of Pakistan. Ellis prevailed but not before officials moved a section of the grandstand
crowd where we were sitting because of fears that they would throw the implement into the stands.
It did reach the track surface but fell short of the stands themselves.  While Jamaica and Kenya
had some success they were not the powerhouses that we have seen in recent years.


A few months after that I emigrated to Canada and as I worked for a Canadian bank in London
everything was paid for and they even gave us spending money.  It was a five day trip across the
Atlantic from Tilbury near London and we left on Friday 13th of February 1959. One never forgets
such dates. The trip was quite rough due to the time of year but the three of us who were travelling
together did not miss a meal. I won the ship’s table tennis championships no doubt helped by good
sea legs –quite an experience.


We landed at Halifax on a very cold early morning on the famous Pier 21 and immediately
realised that our clothing was not suitable for a Canadian winter.  Then on to Toronto for a few days
orientation in our new country and after that a four day train trip across a frozen wilderness. A
wonderful way to see Canada.


I was placed at a bank branch in Burnaby and in the spring joined the track club at Brockton
Oval.  I am not at all sure what I expected but found it contained a good variety of athletes at all
levels including international.  They were very welcoming and I was reintroduced to Vic Stephens
a local miler who I had met in London when he was visiting for the 1958 Empire Games.  He never
quite made the top echelon but ran in the 4:10 to 4:12 range. The most interesting one was a young
lad of 18 called Harry Jerome.
Harry Jerome running for North Vancouver Track Club

Harry Jerome Still Runs near Stanley Park Vancouver
He was just completing high school and often ran with us in Stanley Park on a Sunday.  Very
soon after he broke 10 secs for the 100yd. and then went off to Oregon U. in Eugene. I saw
him run in a few races and even was a track official at one where he ran and Field Marshal
Montgomery presented awards ( goodness only knows why).    Harry of course went on to a
great career but I never met him again although I did take a Greyhound bus down to Eugene in
1960 for what ultimately became the Pre meet.  He won the100m in a good time and soon after
went on to the Rome Olympics to represent Canada.


Life in Vancouver was good and I was encouraged to stay in Canada and will celebrate the
60th year of my arrival in 3 months.  We had a few mid level track meets in Vancouver . There was
one Indoor Meet I attended in the early 60s but the only event I recall is a 300m which Lee Evans
won handily in World record time.  It was not ratified due to a mismeasurement of the track.


Around the same time there was a world class field in Vancouver for a meet .  The mile
featured Jim Grelle and Dyrol Burleson but the star was Peter Snell.  There was great excitement
of course. A good pace was set but Snell quickly fell back.  Some of the less informed even started
a mild booing but it was evident there was a problem.  He gamely finished the race in something close
to 4:20 and it turned out some time later that he had severe food poisoning.  I think Grelle beat out
Burleson in around 3:55. After the meet there was a sort of meet and greet with the athletes and
I chatted to a British miler from the sameclub as Brian Hewson ( Mitcham-very near my home).  I
also remember speaking with weightman John McGrath. For some reason the subject of drugs came
up and his opinion was even at that early date that they were in wide use by athletes.


Brian Hewson topping Herb Elliott (14)
I moved to Victoria in 1964 and they held an annual track meet that in the right years attracted
some fine US  athletes and a few from other countries. I recall seeing the likes of Steve Scott and
Sydney Maree . After around 1970 I moved to other parts of BC  and it was not until the 80s that I
saw any worthwhile track. The annual Victoria meet still attracted the top Canadians, some
Americans and as usual a few from elsewhere.  In later years as we moved into the 90s Canada had
such first class runners as Kevin Sullivan and Graham Hood so the quality was fairly high.


Then Victoria was awarded the 1994 Commonwealth Games-an event that transformed our city
of about 250,000 .  It was very well organised but those running it managed to keep a lid on costs
and it turned out to be one of the few that came out ahead on the balance sheet.  My wife and I
volunteered early on and joined a final group of some 14000 citizens on various committees. Kathi
got to take photos of arriving athletes with the very earliest digital cameras and became quite
absorbed in it  despite not being a track nut of any kind.


I was a marshal for the road events ( cycling , marathon and walks) as well as being mysteriously
selected for the Volunteer Clothing Committee- mysterious because I am almost totally colour blind.  
My wife found it hugely amusing. Nevertheless I spent a happy 30 months or so on the committee
and made a few long term friends. After we had come up with all sorts of great ideas the overall
committee decided to take on Reebok as a major sponsor and they mad all the final decisions.

Opening Ceremonies at U. of Victoria Track

Victoria Harbor


We lived near University of Victoria where the Track events were held and as a result often
saw athletes pounding the roads near our home.   A regular walker by our house was George Heller
a local businessman who was in charge oif the Games Committee. We had a few interesting chats.  
I got tickets to most of the track events and there were many exciting performances.


The Games went very smoothly but as usual not totally without incident.  Prior to the Games
there was much publicity about a young sprinter from Sierra Leone who had some problems ( I think
with equipment or something of that kind).  His name was Horace Dove-Edwin and the city rallied
around to help him. He finished in 2nd place in the 100m behind Linford Christie but was
unfortunately subsequently disqualified for a drug offense.  Christie won easily and with true sporting
class left almost immediately for home. In the Pole Vault Okkert Brits the prohibitive favourite
from South Africa failed to record a height largely due to high winds.


Over following years Victoria continued to hold the Annual International Track Meet but that
seems to be on a biennial now and does not attract the same level as it did in past years.  I had a
chance to meet and talk to Gary Reed a few times over the years. He held Canada’s 800m record
for many years until he lost it in 2018. A very stylish runner he came close to glory by placing
second in the Worlds Championships- a mere 1000th of a second behind the winner.  I found him
very pleasant and friendly.


I managed to get to one more major event and that was the Prefontaine Meet in Eugene Oregon.  
Every track fan should see that at least once in a lifetime. A great meet with a crowd that knows
the sport and  athletes from all over the world who obviously are delighted to be there. There were
the usual high quality performances but perhaps the one I remember best was Maria Mutola
winning the 800m in her last race there.


Now the best I can do is follow on line or on TV and that of course is not the same as being part
of the cheering crowd.

George Brose, John Cobley, and Geoff Williams

* Please note that all of the photos in this article except for the one directly above, have been scooped from the internet.  None have been provided by Geoff Williams.  One interesting note of the picture of Brian Hewson defeating Herb Elliott causes us to assume that this was an 880 yards race.  Herb was not known to have ever lost a mile or 1500 meters race. 

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