Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 34 Saturday December 1, 1956

It is the final day of the Melbourne Olympics and awaaaaaay we go.
Two hundred and fifty thousand line the course to watch what R.L. Quercentani calls “the most pathetic event of the XVI Olympics”. After Bobby Morrow and the rest of the 100 field suffered through cold weather for that event, the sun comes out in full force and the marathoners are treated to a temperatures more suited for the beach, mid-80’s. Like the decathlon, the event is decided halfway through. Algerian Alain Mimoun, wearing the colors of France, makes his move on an uphill portion at 30 km to open an 18 second gap. He is not threatened the rest of the way, finishing in a slow, but decent under these circumstances, 2:25:00 to win by 1:32 over Franco Mihalic of Yugoslavia. Finland’s Veikko Karvonen takes the bronze another 1:15 back. The great Zatopek falls off the pace before the halfway mark. He said the heat was bad and he was afraid of collapsing. “As this was my last race I wanted above all other things to finish.” He does, in 6th at 2:29:34.
Two races qualifying three. In the first race, the US, which had run 40.5 with a bad pass the previous day, makes extremely conservative passes to run 40.3 and win easily over Poland, 41.0, and Italy, 41.1. The Russians look good in the second race, also clocking 40.3. Germany and England qualify for the final at 40.6.
A field of 12 toe the starting line. The British Empire is well represented with 8 competitors. No American has made the cut. Bert Nelson says that ten have the potential to win. It is truly the most unpredictable event of the games. Merv Lincoln says he never had such a relaxed race as the heat he won. On the other hand, he strained a tendon in his foot 10 days earlier and will run with “a bandaged foot full of pain killing dope”. Landy isn’t talking. Ken Wood says that Lincoln and Hewson are the most dangerous, not Landy. Delany says he has plenty in reserve, but since he hasn’t run faster than 4:06 since spring, he really doesn’t know his condition. The best conditions of the games prevail at the start, warm and windless. New Zealand’s Murray Halberg and Britain’ Brian Hewson assume the lead. Aussies Lincoln and Landy opt to stay out of trouble, dropping to the back of the tightly bunched pack. The 200 is reached in 28.3. Halberg takes them past the 300 in 43.2 and 400 in 58.4. Hewson and Stanislav Jungwirth of Czechoslovakia are next. Delany is next to last at 60.0. The pack stays in order until around the curve. Lincoln makes a move to third entering the straight. Halberg continues to lead at 600 in 1:29.3. Lincoln them moves into first on the home straight and passes 700 in 1:44.6 as Britain’s Ian Boyd slips into second. Landy is running last, two spots behind Delany, probably the best finisher. 800 is reached in what Bert Nelson says is a “good 2:00.1”, but indeed the pace has fallen off to 61.7 on the second go around. Delany has dropped to 11th in 2:01.4. “A rapid finish is inevitable.” The big question is when will it start? Big kicker Ken Wood has moved to fourth. Landy has now joined the pack. At the bell, reached in 2:46.6, after a 62.0 lap, ……there is no bell. The ringer is too excited to do his job. Lincoln and Hewson are running abreast in the lead. Germany’s Klaus Richtzenhain moves to second around the curve. Significantly, Delany has also moved up, from 10th to 5th. 1200 is passed in 3:01.3. Down the back straight for the last time, Hewson is doing his best to open a cushion. Boyd is in contact and now Landy brings the crowd to its’ feet as he opens up. But here comes Delany! Running wide, the 21 year old Irishman, “the youngest man to ever better four minutes, sets out after the leaders in a fashion that all could see spelled nothing but trouble for those ahead and behind.” With 200 to go he is fourth behind Hewson, Boyd and Richtzenhain. In the last 100 meters he has cut Hewson’s lead from 8 yards to 3. Landy is now fifth. “Bursting off the turn, Ron flies past Hewson so fast that Brian appears to collapse.” With 75 meters to go, it is over. Delany has crushed the field. “The Villanova student crosses the finish line with an ear-splitting grin on his face and arms thrust wide as he wins Eirie’s first gold medal since 1932.” His last lap is 53.8. His time, 3:41.2, knocks 4 seconds off the Olympic record. Hewson finds the race 20 meters too long and drops to fifth in the last strides behind Richtzenhain, Landy and Tabori. Landy runs 54.9 for his last lap only to lose ground. Times for 2-5 are 3:42.0, 3:42.0, 3:42.4 and 3:42.6. Jungwirth is also 3:42.6 in sixth, followed by Neville Scott of New Zealand. 3:42.8 and Boyd, 3:43.0. Lincoln is last with an official time of 3:51.9. But what of Wood, Nielsen of Denmark and Halberg? They finished 9th, 10th and 11th. Their times? We will never know. Once again there weren’t enough stop watches to go around (except for Australians). That’s right, they did not get official times. Estimates from the stands had them 3:44, 3:45 and 3:45. Delany says, “I felt I had the race won when I took the lead.” And then, showing his grasp of the obvious, “When I hit the tape, I knew I had it.” He credited Landy with helping him when they ran in California in the spring. “He told me that I had the ability to be a good miler. Then he told me that I kept my shoulders too tight. And he taught me how to relax.” If ever anyone was a standup guy it is Landy. “Delany is a magnificent runner. He could easily break my world mile record and set a 3:55 mark. I could never have caught Delany. I could have caught Richtzenhain and got second place and I am very disappointed about that, but I started my run too late. But that didn’t matter either, for I just didn’t have it.” And to compound his lack of ego, “Most of the starters today would have beaten me any time except that the weather here has upset their form.” He added that this was the end of his career, but that he wasn’t going to waste five months of training. “I will have about five more races and give it away next February.”
4 X 100 FINAL
Yes, lane one is being used. The lucky recipients are the lads from Germany. The rest of the field from 2-6 is Great Britain, Italy, Russia and Poland, with the US on the outside. Bert Nelson writes. “5’4” 145 pound Ira Murchison got the Americans out in front in the outside lane, running the curve for the entire distance.” (His option would be?) A “fair” handoff gets Leamon King “flying down the backstretch with possibly the fastest running of the games”. The pass to Baker is where the Americans messed up in round one. Yep, they do it again as Baker is slow to get off. Much of the lead is lost. Baker runs a strong curve to open a margin once again, giving Morrow a “definite, but short advantage over the Russians”. Although Soviet anchor V. Sukharyev hadn’t made the team in either sprint and indeed isn’t fast enough to have an entire first name, Morrow can only open up another yard on him before hitting the tape in 39.5, breaking the world record of 39.8 set in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by the American team of Jesse Owens – Ralph Metcalfe – Foy Draper – Frank Wykoff. The Russians equal the record to take silver. The Germans overcome the misfortune of running what must be a cow path by now to take the bronze in 40.3.
The American team is such an overwhelming favorite that had it run a JV squad of Southern, Davis, Culbreath and Sowell, it would still be the favorite. The other teams are Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Jamaica and Canada. Lou Jones leads off, but is nowhere near his 45.2 WR, running only 47.1 for a yard advantage over Australia. JW Mashburn clocks 46.4, but loses the margin to Dave Lean who catches him with a 46.3. At this point it is a two team race with Germany 8 yards back. The baton is passed to Charlie Jenkins and just like that it is over. The Olympic champion blazes 45.5 to open a 10 yard gap. You can afford to run your 400 meter champion on the third leg when you have your 800 meter champion on the anchor. Tom Courtney increases the margin to 12 yards with a 45.8 finish. The US runs 3:04.8 as there is little drama on the last lap with wide margins between teams. With Kevin Gosper’s 46.1 being the fastest non-US split, Australia picks up silver in 3:06. 2. Derek Johnson brings the Brits in third in 3:07.2. Germany, 3:08.2, and Canada, 3:10.2, are 4th and 5th. Jamaica brings up the rear at 3:11.6, but is disqualified for running out of its lane and causing interference.
Yes, they had the walks, but I am not purist enough to report those. There were women’s events, but they were almost an afterthought. There is a brief report entitled “Cuthbert Paces the Girls” (underline mine). Oddly, there were more field events than running events. The HJ, BJ, DT, SP and JT were contested. American medalists were Mildred McDaniels with a 5-9 ¼ for gold and Willie White, at the start of an extremely long career, jumping 19’11 ¾ for silver. Other than that, it is a (bad pun coming up) field day for the Soviet bloc. Amazingly, there are only four running events: the 4x1, 80 hurdles, 100 and, for the distance runners, the 200. “Blonde Betty Cuthbert, 18 year old beginner” won the sprints and anchored the relay for her three golds. The issue reports these events from sense of duty, a sort of “oh, and there were women’s events, too” thing.
One last minute note. Serendipitously, I accidentally ran across an article on the internet today. Charlie Jenkins, who won the 400 and just today iced the 4 x4, ………flash ahead 54 years….. is today Dr. Charles Jenkins, a public affairs specialist for the US Social Security Administration.
Awhile back I made light of the fact that T&FN had changed its price from 25 cents to $3 a year. Well, it seems that is a bargain, as this issue cost a dollar. Money well spent. And, yes, Clifford Severn is still selling Adidas, “the world’s fastest shoe”, at 10636 Magnolia Blvd, No. Hollywood, California. Warm-ups $5.95 and up, Track Shoes $10.95 and up. “Order Now”

Note: There will be a delay until the next issue – April ’57 - is regurgitated. My long time good buddies, Buddy and Eric, will be visiting back to back for three weeks and I am not doing this crap when I could be sitting on the deck drinking beer. When we resume, we’ll find out how Bob Gutowski liked that new pole. Until that time.

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