Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 28 Saturday November 24, 1956

Now it is Culbreath's turn to sue. Why on earth with only 6 in the final do they use lane 1, leaving 7 and 8 empty.

800 semis sure were alot different than the ones 4 years later at Rome and they had an extra day of rest following those
"fast" 1"53.6 and 1:50 winning semi heats. But I recall the final two days later was pretty swift.

The first day of competition produced a wave of complaints regarding the softness of the track. Indeed, in a couple photos one can see cinders being displaced by the runners' strides. Well, the track hasn't gotten any better and today we have a chill wind.

Six men in each heat with three going to the final. Ira Murchison is out fast in the first race. Mike Agostini of Trinidad and Fresno State closes at the end as they both run 10.5. Manfred Germar of Germany takes third at 10.6. In the second semi, Morrow explodes midway to distance himself from Baker and Hec Hogan of Australia as the three qualify for the finals two hours hence. Morrow 10.3, Baker 10.4 and Hogan 10.5.

As far as the quality of marks, this was the most disappointing event of the games. The contestants are are jumping into a strong wind and the runway is no better than the track and too short as well, 125 feet, a deficiency that John Bennett compensates for by starting his run “far around the bend”. Bennett takes the lead in the first round with 25-2+, a mark that would be his best of the day. Greg Bell takes over in the second round with a leap of 25-8+. These marks stand up for the gold and silver medals as no one else betters 25'. Rafer Johnson, the third American jumper, scratches with an injured knee. How much this will effect his decathlon performance is unknown.

Eighteen year old Eddie Southern is not intimidated. Matched against his nemesis, WR holder Glenn Davis, in the first semi, Southern changes his step pattern from 13 to 15 and runs to an Olympic record of 50.1. Davis looks ragged and is only fourth at the eighth hurdle before rallying to take second in 50.7. In the second heat Josh Culbreath is very impressive, running a easy looking 50.9 to defeat Australia's Dave Lean by three yards. “(Culbreath) was hardly blowing at the end and immediately walked over, picked up his blocks and sauntered off the field.” The final is to be run in 2½ hours.

There are two semifinals run today with four qualifying for the final on Monday. The first race is run at a “funeral pace.” Courtney and Spurrier run 1-2 at 1:53.6. Arnie Sowell has to work harder in the second. He runs 1:50.0 to win a close race as 1:50.3 doesn't make the final.

The morning trials eliminate seven throwers. Fifteen make the finals with the USSR's Anatoliy Samotsvetov having the best throw of 195-3. At the completion of the first round Samotsvetov has taken the lead at 203-8+. Hal Connolly fouls. In the second round Samotsvetov's countryman, Mikhail Krivonosov takes over first with 206-8+. Al Hall moves to third with 202-10+. Connolly can only manage 199-10+. Connolly comes alive in the third round, moving Hall out of a medal position with 205-6+. Krivonosov answers by improving an inch. The competition is pared to six at this point with Csermak of Hungary and Racid of Yugoslavia rounding out the field. No one improves in the fourth round. With two rounds remaining, Krivonosov leads at 206-9, followed by Connolly at 205-6, Samatosvetov at 203-8 and Hall at 202-10. Connolly comes through in the fifth round with 207-3+ to take the lead. Krivonosov, the European champion, fouls on his two final attempts and finishes second. Samatosvetov cranks out his best effort, 205-3, in the sixth round, but it is only good for the bronze. Al Hall also improves to 203-3 on his last throw, but it isn't good enough for a medal. Connolly reveals that he had changed to ballet slippers before the final and thought it helped. In an intriguing aside, the US only had two throwers. Cliff Blair, a 217' man who placed second in the trials, “had been barred from the competition by an action of the US Olympic Committee, on a charge of persistently refusing to stop writing newspaper articles (it was said later that Blair had been sending letters to the editor of the Boston Globe, which the newspaper converted to articles under Blair's byline.)” In a further notation in Cordner Nelson's Track Talk, “Hal Connolly has cancelled plans to retire so that he can get to Europe to visit Olympic discus champ Olga Fikotova.” We all know what happened with this.

By this time the track was badly broken up and a cold wind was blowing (the direction isn't given, but apparently it wasn't aiding), making a fast time out of the question. There is a photo of the finish which shows sprays of cinders being kicked up by the runners feet.
It is Hogan who is out first, opening daylight from the other five. Morrow responds, catching the Australian at the midpoint and pulling away for a decisive victory. Baker and Murchison also catch Hogan with 25 meters to go, but Hogan rallies or Murchison fades and the Aussie has the bronze behind Baker who leans at the tape for the silver. The photo of the finish, albeit taken at an angle, shows Morrow with a decisive margin over Baker, yet both are credited with 10.5. Hogan is 10.6 and Murchison 10.8 (seemingly a large margin if they had been even at 75 meters. Germar and Agostini are never in it and finish at 10.9). The times are testament to the poor conditions. Agostini is quoted as saying, “I thought I had beaten Baker with Murchison second and me third”, making one wonder what race he was talking about.

Only six finalists on an eight lane track, yet lane one is being used, unfortunately by Josh Culbreath. Working out in lanes it is Eddie Southern, Gerhardus Potgeiter of South Africa, Glenn Davis, Yuri Lituyev of the USSR and Dave Lean of Australia. Southern takes a slight early lead which lengthens down the backstretch. He clears the fifth hurdle in 22.5 with Davis right behind in 22.7. Davis' strength comes into play as he edges past the Texan. The two clear the eighth hurdle in 35.8 and 35.9. From here on it is all Davis. He lengthens his lead at the ninth hurdle to two yards. At the tenth he has three yards and stretches the margin to five yards at the tape, tying Southern's hours old Olympic record of 50.1. That effort in the semis certainly lessened Southern's chances in the final as he finishes in 50.8. Potgeiter leads Culbreath and Lituyev, but is losing ground at the tenth hurdle though he still has a yard lead in the battle for the bronze. Alas, it is not the South African's day. He clips the hurdle with his trail leg and goes down. Dave Lean comes on fast but can't catch Culbreath or the Russian as they go through the finish nearl together. Culbreath medals in 51.6, the same time given Lituyev with Lean a tenth back. Potgeiter picks himself up and soldiers on to finish in 56.0. The American sweep is the first of the games. It would not be the last.
Once again the track and wind took their toll. Davis says, “Actually I ran faster than I figured I would. The track was a little soft and I thought the wind was distracting. I feared Southern all the way and kept thinking he might shoot past. But I figured I had it won when I reached the eighth hurdle ahead. When I crossed the finish line I just looked up in the sky and said 'thanks'.”
Tomorrow is an off day. Competition resumes Monday.

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