Monday, January 30, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 11 Day 6 Rome Olympics



In the morning fifteen jumpers make the 16 meter (51-10) mark necessary to qualify for the afternoon finals. The only American is Ira Davis. World record holder Jozef Schmidt of Poland settles the gold medal issue on his first jump, breaking the sand at 55-0 3/4. In the second round Davis betters his US record with a leap of 53-10 to move into second. The third round sees Schmidt improve to 55-1 3/4. Vladimir Goryayev of the USSR takes over second place on the fourth round. The leaders don’t improve in the fifth round, but on his last jump of the day, Vitold Kreyer of the Soviet Union steals the bronze medal from Davis by an inch with a 53-11 effort. Defending champion Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, a ghost of his former self, can manage on 49-5 1/4 in finishing 14th.
The first round of throwers has finished and the second series is warming up when defending champion Al Oerter sets the stadium abuzz. Throwing easily, he bests the world record with a throw of 196-6 1/2. As it is a warm up, it doesn’t count, but the message has been sent. The others better bring their “A” game, because Big Al is ready. He then throws a legal 191-8 to become the only one today to break 180 feet. The other Americans, Rink Babka and Dick Cochran, make sure they qualify for tomorrow’s finals with conservative tosses of 178-8 and 176-5.
Carl Kaufmann has drawn the inside, lane two. Going out, we have Americans Earl Young and Otis Davis, South African Mal Spence, Milkha Singh of India and Manfred Kinder of Germany. Yesterday Kaufmann and Davis were the semifinal winners with Davis establishing the Olympic record of 45.5. The battle for gold appears to be between them.
Spence makes sure no one is loafing. He hits the 200 meter mark in 21.2. Singh, Davis and Kaufmann are clocked in a more judicious 21.8. Young and Kinder trail. Things get interesting in the next 100 meters. Davis and Young make their moves in the middle of the curve and Davis takes a commanding lead into the straight, clocking 32.6 at 300. Young and Spence are second and third with Kaufmann fourth at 33.3 and Singh fifth at 33.4. Have the Americans moved too soon? Well, yes and no. Young fades and finishes last, being nipped at the tape by Kinder. Davis is strong in the straightaway, but Kaufmann is even stronger. He gains all the way to the tape. Had the race been 405 meters, the German might have been the winner. The photo shows Davis looking to his left at Kaufmann who is making a valiant lean. Davis is the winner by the slimmest of margins, .02 of a second.

The track world is stunned by the time, 44.9 for both, breaking Lou Jones’ altitude aided 45.2 in Mexico City, a full half a second faster than anyone has run near sea level. Spence holds off Singh for the bronze, 45.5 to 45.6 with Kinder and Young at 45.9. Davis says, “I started my kick a long ways from home, farther than I ever have. And it’s a good thing I did. That Kaufmann was really coming fast at the end.” The chances are good that they will see each other again. Both are scheduled to anchor their 4x4 teams two days hence.
There are two questions as the nine runners toe the starting line: Is this the Herb Elliott of 1958? And if so, who will get the silver medal? He hasn’t raced seriously in two years, yet looked awfully good in dominating his qualifying semifinal three days ago. He says he has been running faster workouts than ever. We are about to find out.
Americans Jim Grelle and Dyrol Burleson are in the field but are long shots for a medal.
Though Elliott has drawn the inside lane, he has no interest in taking the lead. He falls in behind Michel Bernard of France, Dan Waern of Sweden and Romania’s Zoltan Vamos on the first turn. By the 400, reached in 58.2, he has slipped back another place behind Norway’s Arne Hamarsland and is shoulder to shoulder with Frenchman Michel Jazy. He is content to remain in the middle of the pack for another lap. The 800 is reached in 1:57.8. A fast final time is assured.
This is where Elliott decides to see what he and everyone else has in the tank. He throws down a 13.4 100. Surprisingly, no gap opens.
Elliot Taking Command

The next three 100s go off in 14.2, 14.6 and 14.0 for a 56.2 third 400 and now the field loosens considerably. Istvan Rozsavolgyi of Hungary is bravely hanging on three meters back with Jazy two meters behind him and Vamos another three back. Now it is not a question of who will win, but by how much. The gap widens throughout the final 300 (Elliott’s 100 splits: 13.6, 13.6 and 14.2). The 22 year old Australian hits the tape in 3:35.6, breaking his WR of two years ago. Jazy finishes strongly for the silver, yet is 20 meters behind in 3:38.4. Rozsavolgyi’s 3:39.2 earns the bronze. The next three finishers, Waern, 3:40.0, Vamos, 3:40.8, and Burleson, 3:40.9, all better Ron Delany’s Olympic record of 3:41.4. Bernard just misses at 3:41.5. Grelle edges Hamarsland for eighth, 3:45.0 for both.
“Asked later if the pace suited him, Elliott swigged Italian beer and answered, ‘I won the race. I’d say everything suited me. Cerrutty wanted a faster pace but if it had been any faster I could hardly have finished.’” His last 400 was 55.6. His final 800 was 1:52.8.

A great series of photos of Herb Elliot were taken by Leonard Mccombe for Life Magazine.
This was an invitational mile with Ron Delaney and Laszlo Tabori. Can anyone name the two rabbits? I can almost guarantee no one reading this has ever seen this pictures unless you are an internet junkie, track nut.
You can get to the site through the address below. There are perhaps 30 photos from a meet in California (Compton? Bakersfield?) California readers help me with this.

Yesterday’s competition ended well after 10:30. Now it is 9 AM and the decathletes are rubbing sleep from their eyes. It is clear that the battle for the gold is between UCLA training partners Rafer Johnson and CK Yang. Johnson holds a 55 point lead as the sun rises. Barring a major calamity, the rest of the field is battling for the bronze medal. Over 500 points behind Yang, Germany’s Klaus Grogorenz, Finland’s Seppo Suutari and Russia’s Vasiliy Kuznyetsov are positioned within 78 points.

Conditions are less than perfect. Competitors have less than five hours sleep and there is a headwind (not mentioned). There will be no PRs today. Indeed, the performances are dismal. Johnson, whose best is 13.8, hits the second hurdle hard and struggles to a 15.3 in the first heat. The door has been opened for Yang, a 13.9 hurdler. An insurmountable lead is possible. Yet the Formosan had the same five hours of sleep and is running into a similar headwind. He gives it his best, producing the day’s quickest run, 14.6, not as good as he wanted, but sufficient to take a 128 point advantage.

The importance of jumping on Rafer when he was down in the hurdles is clear in the discus. Johnson, a much larger, more powerful man, is far superior in the discus. He can’t reach his normal 170 range, but his 159-1 third throw is enough to regain the lead. This is not a good event for Yang and today he doesn’t throw as well as usual. His 130-8 leaves him 146 points back
There is a strong chance that the lead may change again after this event. Yang’s PR is more than a foot better than Johnson’s. The vaulting begins at 2:30. Johnson has a come through effort, soaring 13-5 1/2, his lifetime best. Yang clears 14-1 1/4 to come within 24 points of the lead. Now he has a decision to make. Does he have the energy to continue moving up in increments or should he go for broke? He decides on the latter. The bar is set at 14-9. The next event is the javelin where both are good, but Johnson a little better. The final event is the 1500 where Yang is the superior runner. Clear 14-9 and if the final events go as expected, Yang will win. Three attempts and no clearance later he still trails by 24 points.
The Seefab javelin being used in the games has produced shorter throws. Neither competitor can expect to match his personal best. Johnson has thrown over 250 feet. Yang has bettered 233. Johnson throws 228-10 1/2 on his first effort, a mark Yang will have difficulty matching. On his second attempt he gets off a throw of 223-9 1/2. Neither improves on successive throws and Yang’s miss at 14-9 is magnified. The margin is now 67 points.

The crowd is silent at 9:20 as the two line up for the last heat of the 1500. The gold and the silver are about to be decided. Yang must beat Johnson by ten seconds. As Yang’s best is 4:36.9 and Johnson’s 4:54.2, this seems possible. Two days of competition have come down to “I have to break away” and “I have to stick close”.
Splits are not given. Fritz Vogelsang of Switzerland breaks away from the pack, but the rest of the field is together. Johnson stays with Yang until the last lap. Kuznyetsov opens up and Yang tries to follow. The effort is there, but not the energy. He can’t get away from Johnson. As they come down the final straight, it is obvious that Johnson has won. Yang finishes ahead, but the margin is only 4:48.5 to 4:49.7. Yang has gained only nine points. Johnson is the gold medalist.
Final scores for the top six: Johnson 8392, Yang 8334, Kuznyetsov 7809, Yuriy Kutyenkyo (USSR) 7567, Evert Kamerbeek (Netherlands) 7236 and Franco Sar (Italy) 7195.

Johnson is mobbed by well wishers in the locker room while Yang, who beat Johnson in seven of the ten events, sits on a bench and cries. He finally manages to go over to Johnson and say, “Nice going, Rafe”.
Johnson says, “Victory obliterates fatigue. Phil Mulkey helped me with good words in the most difficult moments. I never want to go through that again – never. This is my last one and you can print that.”
“There was nothing I could do”, says Yang. “Rafer was the better man. Near the end I had little or nothing left.” He also says that had decided to give up the decathlon after Rome but now he has changed his mind. “I am going to train all next year and I think if I train very hard I can run up over 9000 points in the next AAU meet. I should have done better in the pole vault. I keep thinking that if I had only done better in the pole vault, I might have ht gold medal right now.”

As the stadium lights are dimming, we look forward to tomorrow when there will be finals in the javelin, pole vault and the discus and prelims in both relays. See you then.

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