Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 27 Let the Games Begin Friday November 23, 1956

The 1956 Olympic Games are upon us, but before we start, we need to report some marks made on Australian soil. Phil Coleman runs second to England's Chris Brasher at two miles but establishes an American record of 8:47.8. More significantly, Jack Davis demonstrates that he is the man to beat in the 110 highs, running 13.3 to take a tenth off his world record, though it may not be recognized for the lack of a wind gauge. Three days earlier he had proven his superiority over his toughest competition by running 13.9 to beat Milt Campbell 14.0, Lee Calhoun 14.1 and Joel Shankle 14.3.

Friday, November 23

Two finals today: the high jump and 10,000 meters. The first two rounds of the 100 meters, the first rounds of the 800 and 400 Intermediates will also be contested.

Americans breeze in their heats. Ira Murchison wins the first heat in 10.5. Thane Baker takes the ninth heat in 10.7 and Bobby Morrow wins the twelfth in the round's fastest time, 10.4. Other 10.5s are produced by Marian Foik of Poland and Australia's Hec Hogan.
Four second round heats have Morrow (10.3), Hogan (10.5), Murchison (10.3) and Baker (10.4) winning. The semis and final will be run tomorrow.

10,000 METERS
The match here is between WR holder (28:30.4) Vladimir Kuts and Great Britain's strong finishing Gordon Pirie, the WR holder at 5,000. The rest of the field is competing for the bronze medal. Sandor Iharos, the holder of seven world records is not in Melbourne for “stated reasons”. Unfortunately, since we don't have access to the previous issue, we don't know what they are, though undoubtedly they are related to the Hungarian revolution.
The race starts the way everyone thought it would: Kuts setting the pace with Pirie in tow. On the seventh lap Kuts moves out to let Pirie pass on the inside. Pirie isn't biting. Kuts then alters his pace, sprinting on the backstretch and slowing to a near jog on the curve, passing eight laps in 9:00. He continues this behavior through 12 laps (13:32) and it is estimated that the two pass 5000 in 14:06, equaling Zatopek's Olympic record for this distance. At this point Kuts' erratic pace is taken to a new level. He slows to 71.1 and 71.6 and moves out to the third lane in an effort to tempt Pirie. On the 16th lap he runs 73.7 and motions Pirie to pass. Again, Pirie sticks to his plan to wait and kick. On the 20th lap, Kuts swings out and slows so dramatically that Pirie is forced to lead. Kuts follows for the curve, then blasts past on the straight. With four laps to go, a gap of four yards has been opened. It is over at this point. Pirie falls back 15 seconds in the next lap and is obviously done. Jozsef Kovacs of Hungary finishes second, seven seconds back with Allan Lawrence of Australia taking third a second later to win the home country's first medal. Pirie limps home eighth, 64 seconds behind the winner.

Five heats are run with the top three advancing. Norway's Audun Boysen wins the first in 1:52.0. Tom Courtney takes the second at 1:52.7. Jim Bailey, buoyed by the wild support of the Aussie fans, comes home two tenths ahead of Arnie Sowell in 1:51.1 in the third heat. Gunnar Nielsen of Denmark takes the fourth heat, closely followed by Lon Spurrier, 1:51.2 and 1:51.5. The fastest time of the day belongs to Derek Johnson of Great Britain who wins the last heat in 1:50.8. The semi finals will be tomorrow and the final two days later after an off day on Sunday.

Six heats with two qualifying will furnish 12 survivors for tomorrow's semis and, 2½ hours later, the final. The Americans win the first three heats easily: Glenn Davis 51.3, Eddie Southern 51.3 and Josh Culbreath 50.9, a tenth off the Olympic record. The only man with a chance to break up an American medal sweep is Russia's Yuri Lituyev, who wins his heat in 51.6.

19 year old Charlie Dumas, the only man to have jumped seven feet, is the overwhelming favorite, yet the American coaches are worried. In the previous 23 days Dumas had only jumped once, when forced to by coach Jim Kelly. He also had not been training. “I believe in stretching exercises for high jumpers,” he explained. “I also jog a lot and lie on a bed kicking up my legs. I jump only in meets.” Qualifying began at 10 AM. There was break for lunch (Dumas ate a sandwich, a hardboiled egg and half a box of raisins) before the finals, consisting of 22 jumpers, began. Opening height is 5'10 7/8”. Decathlon man C.K. Yang goes out at 6'3 5/8”. After 6'6 ¾ only ten jumpers remain. The next height, 6'7 7/8, cuts that number in half. Dumas misses once at that height and trails bespectacled Chilla Porter, the Australian champion, and Russia's Igor Kashkarov. Also in at that height are Canada's Ken Money and Stig Petersson of Sweden. Money is gone at 6'9”, a height that takes Peterson three efforts. The others clear on their first jump. At 6'9 7/8 Porter clears on his second try. Dumas makes his first as does Kashkarov who assumes in the lead with no misses. The tide of battle turns at the next height, 6'10 5/8”, where the Russian is eliminated. Dumas clears on his second jump and now leads Porter who takes three tries. With Dumas jumping first, the pair takes turns missing twice. At 7:22 Dumas puts on his blue jumping shoes and is ready for his third jump. What follows is verbatim. “Later, he was asked what he was thinking then, and this 19 year old whose physical feats far outweigh his mental, said 'I figured they would flip a coin to decide it and I would surely lose.'” (You can't make up stuff like this.) He barely ticks the bar as he clears. Now it is up to the 21 year old Porter who misses and the gold belongs to Dumas with nary a coin being flipped.

Now, as the twilight fades to darkness, we look forward to tomorrow when we will see the semis and finals in the 100, the 800 semis, the 400IH semis and finals and the broad jump and hammer throw finals.

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