Monday, March 19, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 29 That 1936 1500 Final

The Berlin 1500 Meters

Eric Ny (Swe 572), Glenn Cunningham (USA 746), Fritz Schaumberg ?(Ger), Jack Lovelock (NZ467), Luigi Beccali(hidden behind Lovelock) ITA, Wern Boettcher? (Ger 82x) Jerry Cornes (GBr 258), Miklos Szabo (Hun708), Philip Edwards (Can 74), Archie San Romani (hidden behind Edwards) , Gene Venzke (USA 141), Robert Goix (Fr)

In this picture of the 1936 Olympic 1500 meter final we see left to right Eric Ny, Glenn Cunningham, Fritz Schaumberg ?, Jack Lovelock, Luigi Beccali

I’ve put the picture of the 1936 Berlin 1500 meters on the top of the blog because the picture and the event intrigued me. What happened to these runners? Where did world events lead them? How did their lives end? When I was sophomore or junior at the U. of Oklahoma, Glenn Cunningham made an appearance at the Big 8 indoor meet along with Wes Santee. Both were legends. Both spent much of their lives in Kansas. We had always heard of Cunningham’s terrible burns as a child and his recovery and his work with children afterwards on his ranch in Kansas.

But little or no information was available beyond Jack Lovelock who set the world record that day in Berlin and who was also a medical doctor. In fact there were two M.D.’s in that race. The other was an interesting figure in that he was the only black runner. Who was he, who did he run for? John Cobley helped me out with the names of the runners. But what were their final finish places and times after the first three Lovelock, Cunningham

Cunningham in a win

and Beccali? Fortunately the website lets us know something about anybody who ever competed in the Olympics in any sport. Some biographies are more extensive than others. Some give only a birth date and date of death. Once you learn to manipulate the site you will find a universe of information about the Olympics and several other major sports. For example you can look up every runner in the 1936 Olympic marathon with his finishing time and a brief bio. It will show every race including preliminaries, times and finish places of just about any athlete. You can search athletes by name only or by event or by Olympic year. There may be a more comprehensive list or website somewhere. But I’m not aware of anything else like this.
Cunningham later in his career beating Beccali in third place

Berlin Podium

Cunningham and Lovelock

The top three with Paavo Nurmi in Berlin

Lovelock, Cunningham, Beccali, Edwards

The finish from the stands

What I learned about the Berlin 1500 runners

There were two doctors running the race. Jack Lovelock, the winner had just completed his medical studies in England. Lovelock came to the US after WWII and was working in New York. In 1949, he was feeling ill and dizzy at work and called his wife that he was coming home early. He never made it. Waiting on a subway or train platform he fell onto the tracks and was killed by an incoming train. He was a few days shy of his 40th birthday.

The other doctor was Phil Edwards running for Canada, who originally came from British Guyana. He got a medical degree at New York University and moved to Canada where he was to become a leading authority in infectious diseases and practiced and did research in Montreal. Phil is notable in Olympic history as the only person to have won 5 bronze medals in his Olympic career. He ran from 1928 to 1936 and placed in the 400, 800, 1500 and 4x400 over the years. He was second in the 800 meters at Berlin.

Dr. Phil Edwards, Canada
Edwards hoisting Percy Williams winner of the 100 and 200 meters in 1928

Edwards winning 1934 Empire Games 800m

Edwards in 1932 L.A. games

Luigi Beccali third place in Berlin held several European titles and was the defending Olympic 1500 champion at Berlain having won at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Before the US was involved in World War II , Beccali had emigrated to the US and settled in Florida where he was a wine salesman. Died at age 82 in Daytona Beach, FL.


Beccali winning 1500 in 1932 followed by Jerry Cornes and Phil Edwards in third place. All three would run the 1500 in Berlin four years later. All would be faster, but none would place as well in 1936.

Fourth place went to Archie San Romani who raced for many years against Cunningham and beat him on 8 occasions. His son Archie San Romani Jr. went on to fame at Wichita St. and Oregon as a miler in the 1960’s. He died at the age of 82 in 1994.

San Romani edges Cunningham in Lawrence, KS

Cunningham, San Romani, and Venzke on the boat to Europe, 1936

Phil Edwards of Canada, already mentioned above was fifth in the race. He was the youngest to die of natural causes at 63 in 1971 in Montreal. Perhaps his working with infectious diseases, pulmonary diseases and parasitological diseases led to an earlier demise.

In sixth place was Jerry Cornes from Great Britain, died in 2001 at the age of 91 after serving many years in the Colonial service in Africa before and after the 1936 Olympics. (See Cornes' obituary at the bottom of this post)

Venzke, Lovelock, Cornes
Qualifying for 1500 finals
Pierre Leichtnam of France DNQ

In seventh place was Miklos Szabo of Hungary. He was the 1934 European 800 meter champion in 1:52. He also set the WR for 2000Meters after the Olympics in 5:20, then followed with a WR at 2 miles in 8:56 in 1937. He died in Budapest in 2000 at age 91.

Eighth place was Robert Goix of France who outlived the field at 106, passing away in 2011.

Ninth was the American , Gene Venzke who often raced Cunningham and San Romani indoors in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. He was originally from Minnesota and died at the age of 83 in 1992 in Berks County , PA.

Tenth was Fritz Schaumberg who survived WWII and died in Germany in 1988 at the age of 82. In the photo I could not differentiate Schaumberg from the other German Boettcher as I could not find other photos with their identities given.

The last two places and the first in the race were the least lucky.

Eleventh place was Eric Ny of Sweden who died an untimely death in a sailing accident in 1945 at the age of 35.

Walter Boettcher of Germany died in 1944 in combat in Poland.

Longevity is pretty strong in this group of individuals after eliminating those who died untimely deaths, the other nine survived to an average age of 84 years.

Some even had progeny who became fairly decent runners later on.
See below.
Glenn Cunningham Jr.about 1967
Archie San Romani Jr. finishing second to Jim Grelle in the late 1960's

Jerry Cornes Obituary and Biography

From the "Telegraph"
12:00AM BST 25 Jun 2001
JERRY CORNES, who has died aged 91, followed up a career in the Colonial Service by becoming headmaster of West Downs Preparatory School; in youth, however, he had been more widely known as a superb middle-distance runner, the winner of an Olympic silver medal in a world still undarkened by professionalism.

Cornes's athletic prowess began to attract notice at Oxford, not that he allowed training to exclude other university pursuits. He played a full part in the life of his college, Corpus Christi, and enjoyed the distinction of being rusticated for pelting the dons on the college's high table with a bread roll.

In the Oxford University Sports of 1930, the mile was won in a time of 4 min 28 sec. Cornes came third, but realised that he could have done rather better. Competing a fortnight later in the Varsity match, he won the mile in 4 min 22.6 sec.

Four months afterwards, Cornes found himself representing the British Empire against the United States at Chicago. Running with an Australian, a Canadian and another Briton (Reg Thomas) in the 4 x one mile relay, he helped to set a new world record of 17 min 2.4 sec. The next year, 1931, representing Great Britain against Germany, he was a member of a relay team which established another world record by recording a time of 15 min 55.6 sec in the 4 x 1,500 metres.

Cornes gave the appearance of running with great ease. He liked to turn on the pressure in the third lap, so that the opposition had nothing left at the finish.

In 1932, when he was President of Athletics at Oxford, he won the Varsity cross-country race, beating the previous record by almost a minute, and also triumphed against Cambridge in both the mile and half-mile. In a typically generous gesture he paused at the end of the mile to allow Jack Lovelock, a New Zealander who was second string in the Oxford team, to dead heat with him and thus gain a Blue.

Later that year Cornes went out to Los Angeles to compete in the Olympics. As he came into the home straight in the last lap of the 1,500 metres final, he felt he had the race in the bag. The crowd rose, as he thought, in his honour; in fact, though, they were cheering another runner, an unknown Italian called Luigi Beccalli. By the time that Cornes apprehended the danger, it was too late. The disappointment nagged him for the rest of his life. "I did not represent the United Kingdom to collect silver," he said.

After Oxford Cornes went into the Colonial Service, though he still managed to run when on leave, and in 1934 finished third behind Lovelock and Sydney Wooderson in the Empire Games mile at the White City.

He took a nine-month sabbatical from the Colonial Office to train for the Berlin Olympics of 1936. In the final of the 1,500 metres, Lovelock ran the race of his life to carry off the gold. Cornes returned the fastest time of his life for the distance (3 min 51.4 sec), but this only sufficed to gain him sixth place.

John Frederick Cornes (always known as Jerry) was born on March 23 1910 at Darjeeling, the son of a judge in the Indian Civil Service; he had a twin sister and a younger brother. Partly due to the First World War, after the age of three he spent his childhood away from his parents with relations and friends in England. Sent to school at Clifton, he excelled at work, games (especially cricket) and athletics.

Having left Oxford with a Second in Modern History he chose the Colonial Service in preference to the family firm of Cornes & Co of London, Kobe & Yokohama. In 1932 he was sent to northern Nigeria where he rode from village to village collecting taxes and assessing incomes.

In 1937, Cornes was transferred to Palestine, where as terrorism began to increase during the Second World War, he took to sleeping with a pistol under his pillow. He was lucky to escape with his life when the King David Hotel was blown up in June 1946, having just left the hotel to investigate the effect of diversionary bombs in front of the building.

Shortly afterwards Cornes returned to Britain. With his young family growing up, he refused further postings abroad, and found an agreeable job as supervisor of the Colonial Services courses at Oxford. This involved helping visitors from overseas to acclimatise to life in Britain; to this end he ran a hostel, the Colonial Services Club, and founded a cricket club, the Hartebeestes. He also enjoyed dining rights at Corpus Christi's high table, formerly the target of his bread missile.

In 1953 he left the Colonial Office, and the next year, after teaching for a couple of terms at the Dragon School, bought West Downs preparatory school at Winchester.

West Downs was then a highly traditional boarding school for about 100 boys. Cornes proved a breath of fresh air, encouraging all kinds of new activities, including film shows, musical productions, pets and computers. There were visits to plays and concerts - but also to a telephone exchange, a butterfly farm, and a chocolate factory. Games players were encouraged, but so were non-games players, and even school haters. And while horizons were being widened under Cornes's liberal regime, the Common Entrance and scholarship record became one of the best in the country.

In the 1970s the demand for boarding places began to decrease; and although Cornes's decision to introduce day boys, and day girls, meant that the number of pupils reached a peak of 165 in 1978, he was unable to make the school permanently viable. When he retired in 1988, West Downs closed. Six years later the site was sold to King Alfred's College, now part of Southampton University.

Jerry Cornes married, in 1937, Rachael (Ray) Addis, youngest daughter of Sir Charles Addis, formerly chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. They had four sons.

George Brose

1 comment:

Lynn McConnell said...

Can confirm that Luigi Beccali died in Rapallo, Italy while on his annual Italian holiday.

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