Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 3 1960 Olympics Day One Wednesday August 31, 1960


Well, actually there is a meet before the Olympics. On August 20-21 in Bern, Switzerland. Our guys have their ups and downs. Lee Calhoun once again displays his readiness by tying Martin Lauer's WR 13.2 in the hurdles. Hayes Jones is a well beaten second at 13.7. Glenn Davis also ties the WR in the 220 lows on a curve at 22.5. Dick Howard is second at 22.8. The next day they are back, combining with Cliff Cushman for a 49.7, 50.8, 50.9 sweep of the intermediates. Ralph Boston once again betters Jesse Owens broad jump record, this time by 7/8 of an inch at 26-8 7/8. Bud Edlen has to feel down. First Bob Soth took his AR at six miles at Mt. SAC and today Max Truex takes 23 seconds off his AR at 10K, running 29:35.8. Jim Beatty and Bill Dellinger out sprint England's Gordon Pirie in the 3000. Both run 8:16.4 with Beatty winning. It takes Ernie Cunliffe 1:48.1 to run two laps, leaving Tom Murphy a well beaten third in 1:49.6. Bill Nieder only has one fair throw in the shot, but makes the most of it with a 64-5. The guy who didn't make the team originally is beginning to look more and more like a lock for the gold. Our 1600 meter relay team should be very fast in Rome. Today they run 3:06.2 with decathlete Rafer Johnson on the leadoff leg.

On the downside, John Thomas's 6-9¼ is his first sub 7 foot jump of the year. Bill Alley apparently is having trouble adjusting to the Olympic specification javelin. He didn't throw well in the tune up meets and today is no exception. Poland's Janus Sidlo beats him by 22 feet as Alley can muster only 243-5 ½.

And now, on to the Games.

Day One, Wednesday, August 31

The schedule on opening day includes trials and finals in the shot, the first two rounds of the 100, the first rounds of the 400H and 5000 and, amazingly, two rounds of the 800.


No surprises in the first round. Our guys, Norton, Sime and Budd, all qualify easily. With three qualifying out of the second round, Budd wins his heat, Sime is second in his and Norton places third in his. Tomorrow will see the semis and final.


Disappointment for the US. Four heats with three to qualify. None of our guys are close. Beatty and Soth are well beaten sevenths. Dellinger runs better, but his 14:18.6 leaves him fourth, 12 seconds from making the final. The final will be two days hence, Friday, Sept 2.


Six heats with the first two and the two fastest others qualifying. The Americans are unpressed. Reigning champ Glenn Davis eases in second in his heat in 52.2. Dick Howard does the same in his at 51.2 and Cliff Cushman wins his heat in 51.8. Tomorrow will see the semis with the finals the following day.


The opening round is run in the morning and the second round in the afternoon. There are nine heats in the first round with three qualifying. In the second heat Jerry Siebert finishes with the same time as winner Tom Farrell of Great Britain, 1:48.9. The next heat has third place finisher Ernie Cunliffe qualifying by over a second in 1:48.8 in a heat won by some guy named Snell. Tom Murphy benefits from a lack of competition, winning the last heat in 1:52.1 where there are only four finishers and 1:59.0 is good enough to return in the afternoon.

The second round has four heats with three making tomorrow's semifinal. Murphy wins the first heat in 1:48.0. The second heat has Siebert qualifying easily in third at 1:51.3. Cunliffe takes second behind George Kerr in the third heat at 1:49.7. So far, so good.


It seems a shame that one of the most anticipated events of the games will be over on the first day, but so it is. Nieder, Long and O'Brien have been beating each other up for a couple years now. It would be nice to have new significant opposition, but it is not to be. Our guys could have had a meet among the three of them at home and mailed in the results. It takes only 56-1 to qualify for the afternoon's finals. Our guys all throw sub 57 and wait until the competition begins in earnest this afternoon.

O'Brien takes the lead in the first round 61-7 to Nieder's 61-3. Long throws only 55'. Nieder ties O'Brien in the second round, but O'Brien counters with a 62-8¼. Long moves to second with a 61-11¼. Nieder and O'Brien both foul on their third chances and Long doesn't improve. With the elimination of nine contestants the action speeds up. Joining the US trio for the final three throws are Viktor Lipsnis of the USSR, former Oklahoma Sooner Mike Lindsay of Great Britain and Poland's Alfred Sosgornik, none of whom have hit 59 feet. None of the big three improve on the fourth round and now we are down to two throws for all the marbles.

The two time Olympic champion O'Brien is the ultimate competitor. He doesn't talk to his competition. “He stalks grimly back and forth, flexing his muscles and manipulating a white towel, an act at once as innocent and as ominous as the lashing of a tiger's tail.” Nieder sits and talks to himself. He knows his form is erratic, but he also knows he has the potential this day that the others do not. Four days ago in practice he had puts of 65', 65-4, 65-8 and an amazing 67-1. He can throw farther than anyone in the world, but can he do it this day on one of his two remaining put or will his lack of consistency cause the failure it did in the trials? O'Brien has called him a “cow pasture performer”, meaning that he can't do it when the pressure is on. He is a man racked with doubt as he steps into the ring for his penultimate attempt, the one he feels will have to be the big one because he will be too nervous on his last throw.

“He cradles the shot in his palm. He bends a little too far, and never does get his right leg under him for maximum power. But he is exploding. He feels really good finger and wrist snap. As he regains his balance he hears the crowd roar. He knows he has beaten O'Brien, but he watches the measurement – 19.68 meters – 64-6¾”. O'Brien does not have that potential. (Indeed, he does not improve on his last attempt.) But Long does. Long has thrown 64-6 this year and feels he is ready for 66'. Although the 20 year old produces his best effort of the day, 62-4¼, it is for naught. He finishes third.

“O'Brien finally speaks to Nieder, telling him he deserved to win. But after they watch the three American flags go up, two shot putters look at their medals and smile. O”Brien does not smile, and he stares, wistfully, at Nieder's gold medal. He has ended a great career, beaten by only one timely explosion.”

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