Monday, August 31, 2015

V 5 N. 82 August 1965


If your favorite baseball team wins two out of three on the road, you have to be pleased. That isn't the case in track and field if your “team” is the USA and the road is Europe, specifically the Soviet Union, Poland and West Germany.

Let's go back to the LA Coliseum in July of 1964 where the US administered a whipping to the Russian team, 139-97. Remember that high school kid, Gerry Lindgren, running away with the 10,000, the ten 1-2 sweeps, both relay wins, Fred Hansen, Mike Larabee, Bob Schul, Dallas Long? The Russians were flat. Our guys were ready and we were playing to a home town crowd. Butterflies fluttered and birds sang. It was all lollipops and rainbows. Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end.

Well, they did and it was a screeching, jarring halt. The score was 118-112. Let's give credit where it is due. Last year the Russians were as bad as they could be. This year they were as good as they could be. Why the improvement? They meet is in Kiev, so they are home team. They are stinging from the shellacking they took last year. They were pointing for this meet, unlike last year when the emphasis was on the Olympics. Whatever the reason, they were better.

And we were worse? Not really. True, many of last year's stars had retired or weren't able to compete for other reasons. Losing Henry Carr, Fred Hansen, Paul Drayton, Jerry Siebert, Hayes Jones, Bill Hardin, John Rambo, Ira Davis, Fred Hansen, Al Oerter, Hal Connolly and Dallas Long makes a difference. That said, as well as the US performed last year, we would have lost to the marks put up by this year's Soviet team 116.5 to 113.5. Bottom line: we got beat, our first loss in seven dual meets with the USSR.

That is not to say we couldn't have won if illness and injury hadn't taken their toll. Jim Hines now has a leg injury which results in a fourth place finish in the 200. The four places are scored 5-3-2-1. Adolph Plummer wins so the US takes the event 6-5. But if Hines runs to his capacity and places second, we would have an 8-3 advantage which would make the score 116-114.
Bob Schul has a cold and a bad tendon. Gerry Lindgren is coming off a bout of the flu. Billy Mills has tonsillitis and doesn't compete. Schul doesn't have his patented kick and is edged by Pyotr Bolotnikov in the 5000. Bolotnikov is a great runner, so we can't assume a healthy Schul would have won, but he is the defending Olympic champion. 

A somewhat more detailed description of that 5,000 is told by our friend John Cobley of  Racing Past is probably the best blog on history of distance running out there.   Be sure and spend some time on that site.

Ron Larrieu, Bob Schul, Orentas, and Pytor Bolotnikov
5,000  Olympic champ Bob Schul was up against another Olympic champ—Pyotr Bolotnikov, who had won the 10,000 in 1960. Neither runner was in top form as both were dealing with injuries. But there was an exciting race, at least in the last lap. The runners were together at the bell, when Bolotnikov made his effort. He had 3-meter lead on the back straight, but then Schul and Ron Larrieu went after him. Schul took the lead with 200 to go, but when he slowed after feeling a tear in his calf on entering the straight, Bolotnikov was able to regain the lead. Schul, however, did not give up. He slowly pulled back the Russian and made a desperate dive for the tape. Despite this, the tough Bolotnikov was able to hold on for a narrow victory. Larrieu got very close to his team-mate on the exciting run-in.

1. Bolotnikov 13:54.2; 2. Schul 13:54.4; 3. Larrieu 13:54.8; 4. Orentas 14:00.8

I talked to Bob last year approaching the 50th anniversary of his great 5,000 win in Tokyo.  He related that this race in Kiev was one of his finest moments in track and field, because of his injury and his fighting through the pain of the muscle tear to go down to the wire with Bolotnikov.  However he was equally moved after the race because of the warm reception he was given by the Ukranian fans in the crowd.   After the race he  thought they were exceedingly kind by their applause for his effort despite the obvious injury.   An anonymous person came to help him get back to a bench in the infield and then helped him with getting off his shoes and finding his sweats.   It's one of those kindnesses we have from a complete stranger and don't know how to thank them afterward.  Bob said he hoped if that person was still alive and happens to see this report that a big thank you goes out to him.   

One other thing that Bob also related in that conversation last year was his desire that the IOC would help former Olympians to re-unite at future games sites.   He's not suggesting that plane tickets and  seating be given freely, but that if former Olympians decide to attend a later games that there be some sort of reserved seating alloted to them where they can encounter their former adversaries..  gb

Lindgren runs faster than he did in winning last year's 10,000 but is left a half lap behind by Dutov and Ivanov. No what ifs there. Mills doesn't run. Put the Olympic champ into the equation and you have a meet changer. Let's be ultra conservative and say he gets second. That changes the event score from a USSR 8-3 advantage to 7-4 and ties the meet at 115.

Dave Weill wins the discus, but Jay Silvester who has thrown 210 feet this year, can only manage 188 for third. Another two feet and our 7-4 margin would have been 8-3, giving us a 116-114 edge.

Morgan Groth has the fastest half mile of the year but is injured and finishes last in2:17. George Germann runs a brilliant 1:46.8 to win but our 6-5 should have been 8-3. Two more for us, two less for them. We have now reversed that 118-112 score.
Oh, and as long as we are having a pity party, let's mention Russ Hodge's injury in the decathlon which dropped him from a likely third to fourth. Now we win 119-111. See how easy that was?

But forget all those “supposed to”s and “shoulda been”s, the meet hinged on one event, the 400 relay. We are disqualified for a pass out of the zone. As the relays are scored 5-0, this decides the meet. Take five off the Russian total and put it in our column and we win 117-113.

Here's the problem: We weren't winning. Had we made that pass cleanly, the Russians would have won anyway. They put together smooth passes for a 39.3 win. As a measure of whether we would have run faster, we managed only 39.5 in both the Polish and West German meets.

Bottom line, we got beat. The Russians took it to us and deserved the victory. Time to put it behind us and start planning how we right the boat for next year.
A week later, August 7-8, we have licked our wounds and are in Warsaw for our dual meet with Poland. The Poles have some excellent individuals, but as one would expect, not the depth of the US. We take 13 of the 20 events and win easily 118-93, a surprising margin considering that Darel Newman, Silvester, Groth, Willie Davenport, Schul and Jim Grelle are out with injuries.

Tom Farrell subs for the injured Groth and wins the 800, edging his buddy, Germann, in 1:47.6 for both. Jim Ryun takes the measure of the dangerous veteran Witold Baran in a strategic 1500. Lindgren returns to form with a 13:45.4 5000 win and Mills cruises to a 29:10.6 victory in the 10,000.

Polish sprinters run surprisingly well. Marian Dudziak clips off a 20.7 200 to leave Plummer and Hines two tenths back.
Marian Dudziak, Jim Hines, Adolph Plummer, and possibly Marian Foik

Andrezj Badenski delights the crowd by winning the 400 in 45.6, the fastest time in the world this year.
Andrejz Badenski

Speaking of delighting the crowd, the Polish 400 relay team gives our boys another lesson in baton passing. The Dudziak anchored team leaves our squad of Don Owens, Hines, Plummer and George Anderson three tenths back with a national record of 39.2. Oh, where is Bob Hayes when you need him? Catching passes in the Cowboys' training camp, that's where. Bet he's sorry he gave up track.

Three days later we are in Augsburg, West Germany for a 142-91 win over West Germany. The highlight of the meet is Billy Mills 28:17.6 national record at 10,000 meters. Two individual races stand out. Ron Whitney out-leans Olympic champ Rex Cawley in the intermediates in 50.2 for both. Gerry Lindgren tries to pull away from Olympic third place finisher Harald Norpoth with three laps to go in the 5000, only to pay the price as Norpoth powers by on the last lap for a convincing 13:47.8 victory.

The dual meet tour which began with a whimper, ends with a bang as the final race, the 1600 meter relay, is the most exciting race of the tour. For just half a country, the West Germans are pretty darn good. Lynn Sanders, Jay Luck and Don Owens need a 45.7 anchor from Rex Cawley to hold off German anchor Manfred Kinder as both teams clock 3:04.8. Wonder if anyone made it to the local beer garten after the meet?

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