Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 62 August 1959

The USSR-USA meet, held at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field, should be the story of great competition and great results. Instead it is marked by a lack of planning and poor officiating. Dick Bank, in his column, Bank Notes, writes, “…this meeting turned out to be two days of utter confusion, disorganization and incompetence”. How could an event billed as the highlight of the season go so wrong? Let us count the ways.
No wind gauge is present. The one which had been ordered from Lakehurst Naval Air Station does not arrive. The AAU has to “borrow” a wind gauge? There should have been two anyway as the sprints are run on one side of the stadium and the jumps on the other. World record holder Parry O’Brien and the other shot putters are relegated to a corner of Franklin Field where they are out of sight of most of the fans. The lines for the shot are nearly a yard off. The hop-step-jump is held up until the end of the women’s shot put competition because…..are you ready?.....there is only one measuring tape longer than 50 feet. The female long jumpers then have to wait for the HSJ competition to end because the officials for that event are also the officials for their competition.
Bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet. The time frame on this is not mentioned, but the announcer who had been selected is unable to perform. A local disc jockey with no track background is given the job with disastrous results. There is no announcement of any hammer or shot put throw. Greg Bell’s 26-7 jump, one inch off the world record, is not announced (even if he had broken the record, without a wind gauge it would not have counted), high jumper Errol Williams is identified as Charlie Dumas, an error that is passed on to the TV audience. Lap times in the 5000 and 10,000 are meaningless because they are given from the finish line, not the start. (Yes, this would matter in the 10K on a 440 track.) Even the official program, which Bank says is excellent, has a glaring error. The photo of the great Russian decathlete, Vasily Kuznyetzov, is indeed a French decathlete of the early 50’s.
How could all this go wrong in one meet you may ask? No, you don’t understand. There is more. Sit very quietly with your hands folded on top of your desk and I will tell you about the 10,000.
The temperature was 85 degrees with the humidity at 58% when the four runners toed the line. The Russians are Aleksey Desyatchikov and Hubert Pyarnakivi (hereafter referred to as Desy and Pyar). Our guys are Max Truex and Bob Soth. Scoring is on a 5-3-2-1 basis and the Russians are predicted to go 8-3. That will not happen. They run together through miles of 4:36 and 9:21 where Soth takes the lead and Truex begins to drop off the pace. Soth continues to lead, but the pace has dropped to five minutes as the 3M mark is reached in 14:24. On the next lap Dezy takes over with Pyar and Soth in close attendance. Truex trails by 24 seconds. Dezy picks up the pace, passing 4M in 19:17, opening up a margin of 8 seconds on Pyar and 10 on Soth. On the backstretch of the 17th lap Soth passes Pyar to the delight of the crowd. At the end of 18 laps Dezy laps Truex. Soth passes his teammate at the start of the 19th lap. Pyar is falling back, running 80 second laps, but still putting distance between himself and Truex who is cranking out 90s. Dezy is 24:04 at 5M with Soth 20 seconds behind. Pyar trails Soth by 69 seconds. Truex is 2:06 behind him. Ugly? Hey, we are just getting started.
On the next lap “Soth started the weird and shocking high-stepping backward lean of a runner who is in serious trouble.” On the 22nd lap Dezy passes his teammate and Truex, running a 1:40 lap, passes the staggering Soth who is running 2:06. Still little Max is still nearly a lap down to his teammate. Regarding Soth, George Grenier writes, “It is so characteristic of impending complete physical collapse that it indicates that officials are unaware of what happens to athletes. It verges on the sadistic when you consider Soth ran three and a half laps in his debilitated state and no one moved to help.” It would seem US coaches and medical staff should also share this responsibility.
At six miles the timers move from the starting line to the finish to record Dezy’s winning time. When the Russian hits the finish line, the gun is fired for the last lap. Dezy obediently goes another lap. His time for 10,000 is 30:29.9. With one more lap, it is 31:40.6. Truex, who has just completed 6M with a 90 second lap, hones in on the second Russian and comes to life with a 50 second 376 yard finish, passing the seriously depleted Pyar who takes 1:54 for the same distance. Truex finishes in 32:49 with Pyar third in 33:13 or at least that’s the way it looks from the stands. When Truex finishes, Horace Ashenfelter, smelling the reek of the officials’ incompetence, advises him to go one more lap just to be safe. That he did so speaks worlds for Max’s tolerant nature. To sum up: Dezy and Truex run an extra lap. Pyar runs the correct distance. Soth does not finish.
The officials (when we cast the movie, I’m thinking The Three Stooges.) count the 26 lap times for Dezy and Truex, making the finishing order Dezy, Pyar and Truex. The American coaches protest, but it is American officials who have made the mistake and it stands. There is no film to use as reference? Hey, if we have only one tape over 50 feet, you aren’t going to get a film of the race.
Soth and Truex are taken to the hospital where they are given 3500 cc of glucose-saline solution. Pyar is offered hospital treatment, but the Russian doctors decline. “Soth’s heartbeat after the collapse is 172. His first words on regaining consciousness are: ‘Did I finish the race?’ He has no recollection of falling to the ground or the shouted words of advice to walk.” 10,000 meter score: Russia 8, US 2.
The rest of the meet does not live up to hopes. The US goes 1-2 in the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 110H, 400H and SP in addition to winning both relays to come out on the long end of a 127-108 score. The Russians swept the 5,000, 10,000 (sort of), steeplechase and the 20,000 walk. Al Cantello won the javelin, Greg Bell the broad jump, Don Bragg the pole vault and Al Oerter the discus. World record holder Kuznyetsov ran up 8350 points to win the decathlon by 750 points over Dave Edstrom. Given the expectations, it wasn’t that much of a meet.
With the earlier reference to the women’s long jump, we are pretty sure there was a women’s meet (which of course we lost), but you won’t learn about it by reading Track and Field News.
Two weeks later, Aug. 1, the inaugural Albuquerque Invitational is held. Parry O’Brien makes it memorable by adding two inches to his WR with a toss of 63-4. Don Bragg has a near miss at the PV WR at 15-9¾, after winning at 15-5. Other top marks come from hometown boy, Dick Howard with hurdle wins of 23.2 and 51.2 and Al Cantello who throws 261.
The front page has two good sized photos of Germany’s Martin Lauer who has surprised with a high hurdle WR of 13.2 and tied the world best in the lows around a turn at 22.5. In both photos he is beating the US’s Willie May. No details are given. It looks as if next year’s Olympic hurdles should be interesting.
Two groups of Americans have competed in Europe. The first group, cleverly labeled Group 1, lead by Bud Winter and Ducky Drake, competes in Helsinki and Goteborg in late June and early July. Athletes included Charles Butts, Al Cantello, Les Carney, Dick Cochran, Deloss Dodds, Bob Gardner, Bob Gutowski, Dick Howard, Ed Moran, Bob Poynter, Lew Stieglitz and Jerome Walters. Group II, coached by Ding Dussault of Tufts, gets the extended tour lasting three weeks from June 27 to July 16, competing in Germany and Switzerland. That group included Rink Babka, Chuck Carlson, Ernie Cunliffe, Mel Schwarz, Willie May and Bill Woodhouse. Carlson ran 45.9 to tie for the fastest 400 time of the year with Mike Larabee and Otis Davis. Woodhouse “diligently disposed of his European rivals”, beating Manfred Germar twice in 10.4 and 10.3 and adding a “half curve” 200 mark of 20.8. But what of Ernie Cunliffe you may be asking. Ernie C. opened strongly with a 1:49.6, but then found that Europeans are pretty tough at 800 and had to be content with non winning marks of 1:49.7, 1:50.0 and 1:50.1.
Yes, of course Clifford Severn and Adidas have the traditional last page ad, but there is a new player on page 13 where Puma has a quarter page ad extolling their new “nylon ball support” which “puts the pressure where it is needed (as shown in the illustration) for faster starting, surer pick-up.” Indeed the illustration which shows how the Puma shoes keep one going in a straight line and other shoes have you running catawampus all over the place, makes you wonder how an athlete can stay in his lane without Pumas. The only drawback here is that were you to order a pair of these fine looking shoes, you would have to mail your order to Nurnberg, Germany.

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