Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 16 Day 8 Relay Finals, 10,000, javelin

1960 Olympics – Day 8 – September 8

This is the last day of competition on the track. We have the semifinals and finals in the 4 x 100 and the finals in the 4 x 400, the 10,000 and the javelin. The only event remaining will be the marathon two days hence.


There is no doubt the gold medals will be won by either the United States or Germany. Both teams win their heats in 39.7. The next fastest teams are Italy and Russia at 40.2. The stage is set for this match later this afternoon.


As mentioned yesterday, two of the big names are missing. Bill Alley and Egil Danielsen did not make the qualifying mark for today’s final. World record holder Al Cantello is the only American in the field. Poland’s Janis Sidlow must be the favorite off his 279-4 effort yesterday, nearly 18 feet better than Cantello could muster. And yet the javelin is an iffy event prone to unpredictability. Of the 12 finalists, the only non-European is Cantello.

Viktor Tsibulenko of the Soviet Union establishes the tone with a 277-8 first effort. It will take some big boy throwing to beat that. Walter Kruger of Germany slings one out 260-4. No one else is closer as the round ends. Indeed no one else matches either of these marks the rest of the day as the wind shifts aversely and a light rain begins to fall. Hungary’s Gergely Kulcsar takes the bronze at 257-11. Shockingly, neither Sidlo nor Cantello make the final six. Three throws with Sidlo reaching 250-10 and Cantello 245-1 and they are done. They finish eighth and ninth.

Viktor Tsibulenko
Tsibulenko’s victory is proof of the axiom that 88% of success is showing up. He has been ranked in the top ten since 1952 and was the Melbourne bronze medalist, yet no one had seen today’s performance coming. His throw is a PR by over six feet and the sixth best ever.

A disappointed Sidlo says that it is the end of a dream, “Now I know I’ll never be an Olympic champion. That was it. The wind brought about the decision, same as in Melbourne.”
Sidlo and Danielson left in the dust

4 X 400 FINAL

A light rain is falling as the teams line up. South Africa is in lane one, Germany in two and Switzerland in three. The US is in four and Great Britain in five. On the outside is the West Indies with a team composed of American college students. Trials winner Jack Yerman will lead off for the US, followed by 400 sixth place finisher Earl Young. Intermediate hurdle champion Glenn Davis will take the baton for the third tour of the track and 400 meter champion and world record holder Otis Davis is on the anchor leg.

Yerman, who has been ill and ran poorly in the 400 semis, is the potential weak link. If he runs another 48, what looks like a sure US victory will be in serious doubt. His performance on the opening leg casts those reservations aside. He powers down the straight to give the US the lead at the exchange. It is a come through 46.2 by the Cal Bear.

The margin is three meters over the West Indies’ Mal Spence, but more importantly, it gives the US a seven meter lead over Germany, their prime competition.

The second leg belongs to Germany’s Manfred Kinder who closes on Young with a brilliant 44.9 carry, negating Young’s 45.6 and putting the Germans only a meter back at the exchange.

Glenn Davis on the third leg is money in the bank any day and today is no exception. After gaining a couple meters on the exchange, he allows Johannes Kaiser to come up on his shoulder and attempt to pass on the backstretch. The double gold medalist holds the German off around the curve and then turns it on up the straight. The gap opens, one meter…..two.....three…..four and finally five at the exchange. Davis has run 45.4 to Kinder’s 45.9. Unnoticed behind them, Nebraska hurdler Keith Gardner runs a surprising 45.8 to move the West Indies into medal position over South Africa.

Now it is the match up that everyone has been waiting for, the dual of the 400 gold and silver medalists, the co-world record holders at 44.9, Otis Davis and Carl Kaufmann. The US adds a meter at the exchange and Davis is flying. But so is Kaufmann. In the middle of the final curve he is on Davis’ heels. Cordner Nelson writes, “Davis made one of the quickest pick-ups in quarter mile history.

Almost instantly Davis added two yards to his lead and before Kaufmann could rally, Davis added another yard for a four yard lead to hold down that long, long stretch. Now it was up to Kaufmann and the Brooklyn born German”…(who knew?)… “was game, but he couldn’t cut the US victory margin.” Davis is clocked in 45.0 with Kaufmann tying teammate Kinder for the fastest split of the day at 44.9.

The Germans have taken over a second off Jamaica’s WR, but have only silver to show for it. The US has the gold and a new world record, 3:02.2. Germany is timed in 3:02.7. George Kerr’s 45.4 carry is more than enough to hold off South Africa’s Mal Spence’s 45.6 and the West Indies takes the bronze 3:04.0 to 3:05.0.

10,000 METER RUN

As 44 have entered this event, the decision not to run qualifying heats is questioned. Fortunately, after some who have already run the 5000 and those who plan to run the marathon scratch, the field is reduced to a more manageable 32. As two rows of 16 prepare for the start, relatively cool weather gives promise of fast times.

There is no overwhelming favorite. The gold and silver medal winners in the 5000, Murray Halberg of New Zealand and Hans Grodotzki of Germany are in the mix. So is steeplechase champion Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak of Poland. The Russians have three fresh runners. Australia’s Dave Power, the British Empire 6 mile and marathon record holder has to be considered a threat. A big question mark is the enigmatic Gordon Pirie who hopes to make up for a miserable showing in the 5000. The only American is Max Truex who seems hopelessly outclassed in a field of this quality.

The initial pace is slow and Roberto Quercetani writes that “little or nothing happened during the first half of the race”. Five thousand meters is reached in 14:22 with each kilometer being slower than its predecessor. At 7000 meters the leading group numbers 14. The favorites are still there and so is Truex.

With seven laps remaining, Power makes his move. Only Pyotr Bolotnikov and Aleksey Desyakchikov of the Soviet Union and Grodotzki go with him. Surprisingly, Halberg does not. With 700 left, just when it looks like Grodotzki will have the upper hand, Bolotnikov begins a spirited drive to the finish. A gap opens that increases all the way to the tape. The Russian’s last kilo is 2:36.8 and his final 400 goes off in 57.4. His time is an Olympic record of 28:32.2, only 1.8 seconds off Vladmir Kuts’ world record. His last 5000 is covered in 14:10.

1 Bolotnikov, 2 Grodotski, 3 Power
Grodotzki earns his second silver medal of the games, relegating Power to the bronze as they finish in 28:37.0 and 28:38.2. Desyatchikov just misses the award ceremony with his 28:39.6. Halberg is fifth in 28:48.5.

The most surprising effort is that of Truex. It was thought that it was only a matter of time before he dropped back from the second group, but he not only stays with them, he finishes strongly, crossing the line less than two seconds behind Halberg in an American record of 28:50.2, and creating a “gold medal sandwich”, behind the 5000 winner and ahead of the steeplechase winner Krzyszkowiak who runs 28:52.4. He has improved his PR by a stunning 45.6 seconds.

Max is not alone. Nearly all the place winners ran personal bests. Bolotnikov improved 26.0 seconds, Grodotzki 20.8, Power 17.0 (based on his 6 mile record), Desyatchikov 20.4, and Krzyszkowiak 3.6. Only Halberg has failed to improve and he missed by only half a second.

The winner pays homage to the Melbourne 10,000 champion, countryman Kuts, “I owe this victory to Kuts. He gave me advice and inspiration.”

No sixth place finisher in these games has received the acclamation than that bestowed on Truex. “When it was over I was swamped with congratulations. Athletes from all countries came over to say a word. It was amazing and thrilling. Apparently they never thought an American would run that fast. I had no idea how fast it was myself. For awhile I thought the big names were flopping when I stayed up there with them. I kept waiting for them to sprint. When one of them did, I took off myself.” His last lap was 60.

Max’s race today is perhaps the seminal turning point in American distance running. His time is a jaw dropping improvement of 1:41.7 on the American record which stood at 30:31.9 at the start of this year. He is the first American to place in the first six in the 10,000 since Hopi Indian Lewis Tewanima finished second in 1912.
The following exerpt is from European Athletics celebrating Bolotnikov's 80th birthday.
Bolotnikov won the 1960 Olympic Games 10000m title, twice set world records over that distance and he also won the 1962 European Athletics Championships 10000m gold medal in Belgrade.

He was born in Mordovia on 8 March 1930 and was a late starter in sports due to a difficult childhood. His mother died at the age of four and his father was killed in World War II in 1942.

"I then went to live with my father's sister; we were often cold and hungry. I worked in the field and pushed ploughs. It was in this environment that I discovered that I had endurance," reflected Bolotnikov.

At the end of the World War II, he worked as an electrician for several years before joining the army at the age of 20 and it was here that his talent for distance running was discovered.

"I was a good skater but I was stationed in Germany and couldn't find any ice, so I started out as a sprinter. I heard about the exploits of Emil Zatopek at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, at which the Soviet Union had some successes, and decided to try longer distances," he added.

From 1953 onwards, after his return to Moscow, he had a memorable domestic rivalry with another legend of the Soviet era Vladimir Kuts, although Bolotnikov usually came off second best.

At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, while Kuts was grabbing all the headlines with his memorable 5000m and 10,000m double, Bolotnikov had to settle for ninth and 16th place respectively.

However, a change of coaches in 1957, and an increase in mileage also led to a rapid improvement in his results which, in turn, led to his successes at major international championships in the following years.

Between 1957 and his retirement in 1965, he did not lose a 5000m or 10,000m race to another Soviet runner.

"In Rome, I was confident enough that the only thing that bothered me was not my rivals but the warm weather. If it hadn't been for the sun, I might have broken Kuts' 10,000m world record there."

In October that year, he finally did supplant Kuts' mark, improving it by almost 12 seconds when he ran 28:18.8 in Kiev.

Bolotnikov then reduced this record just two weeks before his Belgrade triumph in 1962 to 28:18.2.

After his retirement he stayed in athletics as a coach, both in Russia and various African countries.

In his retirement, he now splits his time between Moscow and his countryside villa which, he proudly says, he built with his own hands.

4 X 100 FINAL

American pride is on the line in this one. We have always dominated the sprints and relays, but this Olympiad’s 100 and 200 have been disasters. Win the 4 x 1 and we can significantly lessen the humiliation. This will not be easy. The German team has equaled the world record and is looking oh, so good. The advantage they have from having worked together all year is obvious.

Lane one is vacant. The US is in two. Going out we have Venezuela, Italy, Russia, Germany and Great Britain. It has drizzled for much of the afternoon. The rain has stopped, but dark clouds are low overhead. The US team is led off by Frank Budd, then Ray Norton, Stone Johnson and Dave Sime. Bernd Cullman will lead off for Germany. 100 champion Armin Hary will run the back straight and pass to Walter Mahlendorf. The anchor leg will be run by Martin Lauer who missed a medal in the hurdles. If the US can get Sime off near Lauer it will be game over, but this is easier said than done.

It takes just a little over ten seconds to determine the gold medal winners. Cullman has a slight lead on Budd at the first exchange. Norton, anxious to redeem himself against Hary, starts too soon. Budd yells at him and Norton comes to nearly a complete stop. This is bad enough, but it looks as if he has also outrun the zone. The exchange is made and Norton runs a tremendous leg. The pass to Johnson is poor and Johnson nearly overruns the zone, but rallies to run a sensational leg and get Sime off only two meters down on Lauer. Up the straight they come with Sime eating up the margin and edging ahead just before the tape. All eyes turn to the judge who was sitting at the first exchange. He raises his red flag to denote a foul and the US has lost the gold. Hal Bateman writes, “Although the disqualification is booed by many in the stands, it was a fairly obvious one.” Germany once again ties the WR at 39.5. Russia is second at 40.1. Great Britain holds off Italy with the great Berruti on the anchor to take the bronze medals, 40.2 for both.

Norton admits the fault was his. “I was too anxious. I was running too fast. Budd yelled at me and I made almost a complete stop. I had no idea at the time that I had committed this foul. I merely stuck down my head and ran as hard as I could. I’ve had it. I am through with running.”

Bud Winter, Norton’s coach at San Jose State and this Olympic team, says Ray is taking a rap he doesn’t deserve. “There were other circumstances involved in this incident. Actually, Budd slowed up a bit at the end of his opening stick. We had been having trouble with Budd. He was inclined to tense up at the end of his races, throw his head back and slow down. We tried to get him to keep his head down and charge, but in the relay he hesitated again.” However it is sliced, the result is the same, a disqualification. This is the last race on the track of this Olympiad.

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