In the Olympic year 1956, when the talk is of sprinters, you begin with the magic name Morrow. This trim but muscular youngster with the flashing stride has never equaled the world record for 100 meters (10.1) or 100 yards (9.3) although he has been only one tenth of a second off each and has run 200 meters around a curve as fast as any man in history (20.6). Bobby Morrow just wins races—and because of this he could become the first double sprint champion of the Olympic Games since Jesse Owens at Berlin in 1936. He has beaten all the best—including his teammates, Ira Murchison, who has run 10.1, the veteran Thane Baker and the 1952 Olympic 200-meter champion, Andy Stan-field—and has the great competitive poise that sometimes means as much as sheer physical ability in the big races.
Murchison, with his rocketing start, and Baker, with his tremendous mid-race pickup, are in the same class with Morrow at 100 meters, as are Stanfield and Baker—who finished one-two at Helsinki—at 200 meters. Non-U.S. athletes seem to have little chance for medals in these events. One who might come through is the little scooter from Trinidad, Mike Agostini, who goes to school at Fresno State and has run about as fast as anyone alive. But he was notably unable to beat the best U.S. sprinters on the West Coast last spring and summer and the odds are pretty long against his chances of accomplishing it now. Another almost certain finalist who needs only to prove himself against world-class competition is Manfred Germar of Germany, the best young dashman in Europe.
Behind this handful are half a dozen who can only hope to come close. In the 100 the list includes Heinz F√ºtterer and Hector Hogan, a pair of once-dangerous veterans from Germany and Australia respectively, who are now on the downgrade; the Russians Boris Tokaryev and Leonid Bartenyev; Pakistan's Abdul Khaliq and Leo Pohl of Germany. In the 200 are some members of the above cast plus José Telles da Concei√ß√£o of Brazil, Vilém Mandlík and Vaclav Jànecek of Czechoslovakia, Canada's Stan Levenson, Ardalion Ignatyev of Russia and Karl-Friedrich Haas of Germany.
The man to beat in the 400 meters at Melbourne is certainly Lou Jones, the world-record holder from Manhattan College by way of the U.S. Army and a fellow with a proclivity for losing the unimportant race and winning the big one. He ran 45.4 at the 1955 Pan-American Games and last summer, in the final U.S. Olympic trials at Los Angeles, lowered the world record to an almost unbelievable 45.2.
No one questions that Jones will have the competition to push him on, both from his teammates and others. Jim Lea, the world record holder at 440 yards, was second to Jones in both the big races, and young Charley Jenkins, at Los Angeles, was not far behind. If someone should break into this U.S. monopoly, it will probably be either Ignatyev or young Voitto Hellsten, Finland's fast improving ace at this un-Finnish distance. Others to watch include Haas, Ivan Rodriguez of Puerto Rico, Kevan Gosper of Australia, Peter Higgins of Great Britain, and if the Magyars arrive in good condition, Zoltàn Adamik of Hungary.
With its great strength in sprinting, the U.S. is virtually certain to win both the 400- and 1,600-meter relays and break Olympic records in the process. Morrow, Murchison, Baker and Leamon King (who has also done 10.1) can expect no real competition even from Germany's strong team. And at 1,600 meters Jones, Lea, Jenkins and big J. W. Mashburn should leave Great Britain, Germany and the Russians laboring far behind,
THE MIDDLE DISTANCES
The four best 800-meter men in the world are Roger Moens, a Belgian police clerk who holds the world record; Audun Boysen, a Norwegian psychologist; and two young men from the U.S., Tom Courtney and Arnie Sowell. Of these, only Moens, who injured his leg during a mid-September workout in Athens, will be missing at Melbourne.
On a stop-watch basis, Boysen, Courtney and Sowell are as alike as three spikes in a track shoe. This year Courtney and Boysen have run 1:46.4 and Sowell 1:46.7. But in style—and sometimes in competition—they are not alike at all. Boysen has great speed but never seems to win in the big international meets; he may be the ideal pace setter for what could be one of the great races of the 1956 Games. Courtney and Sowell on the other hand are tremendous competitors, the one a hard-driving runner with great power, the other a graceful floating shadow; they have been taking turns beating each other for three years and the one you like depends upon whether you are a Courtney or a Sowell man.
Chasing them should be their teammate, Lon Spurrier—who holds the world 880-yard record but has never beaten either Courtney or Sowell in a race—Lajos Szentgàli of Hungary, Edmund Brenner of Germany and Derek Johnson of Great Britain. The great Gunnar Nielsen of Denmark, who has been bothered by injuries and may run only the 1,500, could also cause trouble at this shorter distance.
All 10 of history's sub-four-minute milers—Roger Bannister, John Landy, Brian Hewson, Làszlo Tàbori, Ron Delany, Jim Bailey, Gunnar Nielsen, Istvàn Rózsav√∂lgyi, Chris Chataway and Derek Ibbotson—are looked for at Melbourne, and of these only the first, Bannister, will be there in a noncompetitive capacity; of the remainder, only Chataway and Ibbotson are definitely passing up the 1,500 meters to concentrate on the 5,000 meters. Which means that this magic race could develop into the spectacle that the track world has been looking forward to for more than two years—or it could disintegrate into the wildest last-lap scramble in the history of the sport. Exactly what it turns into depends, of course, upon whether any of the runners involved dares to step out and set a real scorcher of a pace—in which case it would almost be an accident if the world record survives—or whether each hangs back, conserving his energy for that all-important dash to the finish line, and waits for someone else to risk setting the pace.
In any event, all the great names do not appear above and those which do are not necessarily operating at maximum efficiency. Landy, for example—who, because he believes that a "great" race deserves a "great" time, might be the man to set the pace—is a question mark because of tendon trouble in his legs. Nielsen has been slow getting back into shape and no one knows whether Delany or Bailey or Hewson can repeat their earlier brilliant performances. But Rózsav√∂lgyi, the blond Hungarian who set a world 1,500-meter record of 3:40.6 on Aug. 3, and later ran 3:41.0, could lead them all if he is ready. Some others who must be considered are the veteran Swede, Ingvar Ericsson, who has made a marvelous comeback this fall to run the third-best 1,500 meters of the year (3:41.2); Siegfried Herrmann, the fast-improving German who should definitely not be underrated; Ken Wood, Britain's stout competitor, unbeaten in '56; Dan Waern of Sweden—who has been called the new Gunder H√§gg—and Stanislav Jungwirth of Czechoslovakia, Klaus Richtzenhain of Germany and Olavi Salsola of Finland.
Of America's three entries at 1,500 meters, young Don Bowden has shown the most improvement and appears to have a better chance at reaching the finals than either Jerome Walters or Ted Wheeler. But Bowden's best is only 3:46.6. Maybe in 1960?
The great distance runners of 1956 have been Gordon Pirie, the stormy paint salesman from England, a Russian sailor named Vladimir Kuts and Lieutenant Sàndor Iharos of the Hungarian army. With Iharos out with an injured foot, it is not inconceivable that between them Pirie and Kuts could split up the four gold and silver medals which go to the winner and runner-up in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races.
Iharos held the 5,000-meter world record at 13:40.6. Pirie broke it (13:36.8) and in the same race Kuts did 13:39.6. Iharos this year ran his first real competitive race at 10,000 meters and set a world record of 28:42.8. Two months later Kuts broke this with a startling 28-30.4. So, as the time nears for the Olympics, it is reasonable to assume that Pirie and Kuts will wage a tremendous battle for the 5,000-meter championship, and that Kuts will go after the 10,000 meters with Pirie in hot pursuit. The only trouble with this figuring is that there is always someone named Chataway, or Landy, or Tàbori, or Ibbotson, or Kovacs, or Chromik to ruin the script.
Landy, if his leg is all right, and Chataway, always a marvelous competitor, and Tàbori and Ibbotson appear to have the best chance to upset the form chart in the 5,000. In the 10,000, Poland's Jerzy Chromik could cause real trouble if he decides to stick to the flat races he has been working on most of this year and leave his first love, the steeplechase, to others. If not, then the 10,000-meter competition will come from three aging veterans: tiny Hungarian József Kovàcs, Alain Mimoun of France and Herbert Schade of Germany and, perhaps, from young Alan Lawrence or erratic Dave Stephens of Australia as well. America's best in the two distance events are a pair of 22-year-olds who still have a long way to go: Bill Dellinger and Max Truex.
Should Chromik decide to try the steeplechase again, he will run into a real battle with two other Europeans who this year have bettered his old 8:40.2 world record. Russia's Semyon Rzhishchin (8:39.8) is a spotty competitor capable of amazing performances on his good days; Hungary's Sàndor Rozsnyói (8:35.6) is even more brilliant and at the moment ranks as the logical favorite at Melbourne. Another of the fabulous Hungarians, Làszló Jeszenszky, and Ernst Larsen of Norway—who is both very good and very consistent—and the strong British trio of John Disley, Chris Brasher and Eric Shirley are all contenders. Finland has a threat in Olavi Rinteenp√§√§.
All this leaves the defending Olympic champion, Horace Ashenfelter of the U.S., confronted with quite a task; unless he gets far below his Olympic record—and personal best—of 8:45.4, he has little chance even to place this time. But then, no one expected Horace to place in '52, either.
Emil Zatopek won three gold medals (5,000, 10,000 and marathon) at Helsinki after winning the 10,000 at London in '48. The great Czech runner will be back again at Melbourne but will run only in the marathon and no one really knows whether he is physically capable of adding one last gold medal to his already slightly incredible collection. At any rate, if you wanted to pick the winner of this most grueling of all Olympic events, Zatopek might be as good a choice as any. Courses around the world vary to such an extent that comparative times mean little and few of the top marathoners race against each other often enough to invite comparisons.
Among the best, however, are Zatopek, the Finnish trio of Veikko Karvonen, Paavo Edvard Kotila and Eino Oksanen; South Africa's Jan Barnard, Hideo Hamamura and Kurao Hiroshima of Japan, Franjo Mihalic of Yugoslavia, Ron Clark of Great Britain, the Australians John Russell and Keith Ollerenshaw and two fast-improving prospects from the U.S., John Kelley and Dean Thackwray.
Only eight men have run under 14 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles this year and seven of these are Americans; if each nation could send as many competitors as it wanted in each event, the high hurdle final would almost certainly be made up of six from the U.S.
As it is, they may need the finish-line photos to determine which of the three that do make the trip gets to the tape first: the world record holder, Jack Davis (who was second by a breath to Harrison Dillard at Helsinki), Lee Calhoun, winner over Davis several times in the last year, or Joel Shankle, the versatile star from Duke. Once you add Martin Lauer, the gifted 19-year-old from Germany who recently ran 13.9, the hurdle field is about complete.
One of the outstanding races of the Games may take place in the 400-meter hurdles, where three dazzling U.S. youngsters have come up to challenge—and even surpass—the Russians. Yuriy Lituyev of the U.S.S.R. was upset by an American, Charlie Moore, at Helsinki in '52, and Moore's feat was considered surprising indeed. But last summer a 21-year-old farm boy from Ohio named Glenn Davis ran the distance in 49.5, an 18-year-old from Texas named Eddie Southern was only two yards back in 49.7 and a 23-year-old Marine named Josh Culbreath was third in 50.4—and Culbreath's time was good enough to tie the 31-year-old Lituyev's world record. So, suddenly, the 400-meter hurdles, too, has become a U.S. event.
The other Russian contenders are Igor Ilin and Vyacheslav Bogatov; best of the rest is Rumania's Ilie Savel.
The four weight, or throwing, events should produce rich international competition. Except in the shotput, no one country dominates the scene.
The shotput is a U.S. event, the primary reason, of course, being Parry O'Brien. The explosive Californian is the defending Olympic champion, the world-record holder (63 feet 2 inches) and probably the heaviest single favorite in an event this year at Melbourne. The other reasons are his two younger teammates, the giant Ken Bantum and burly Bill Nieder who, along with O'Brien, are the only three 60-footers in the business.
Best non-U.S. shotputter is the massive, 253-pound Czech, Jirí Skobla, whose father won the heavyweight weightlifting championship at Los Angeles in 1932. He has gone beyond 58 feet and is consistently out past 57. Russia has a 57-footer in Vartan Ovsepyan and Barclay Palmer of Great Britain rates very close.
This has been quite a year for hammer throwers with the tall Russian, Mikhail Krivonosov, the determined American, Hal Connolly, and—on one occasion—the erratic young American, Cliff Blair, taking turns at demolishing the world record. At last count it belonged to Connolly at 224 feet 10½ inches, a feat he accomplished only 11 days after Krivonosov had whipped the big iron ball out 220 feet 10¼ inches. At any rate, these two are the best in the world, both in the matter of ability and consistency, and their duel should be a real jewel on the field-event schedule.
On several occasions Blair has thrown the hammer farther than his third teammate, Al Hall, but the latter has been much steadier around the 200-foot mark. Both, however, are going to have trouble getting into the top three at Melbourne. Tadeusz Rut of Poland has a record superior to either, and another Russian, Anatoliy Samotsvetov, recently went past 213 feet. Other strong contenders are Sverre Strandli of Norway and the third Russian, Stanislav Nyenashev.
At this time a year ago, only four men had thrown the javelin past 260 feet. Now a double handful are over that mark and four of them have exceeded 270, a matter of cold statistics which leaves Defending Champion Cy Young and his U.S. teammates, Phil Conley and Ben Garcia, far down the list. Best of the 270-footers appears to be young Egil Danielsen of Norway, who is only 3½ inches under Janusz Sidlo's world record of 274 feet 5¾ inches and has been far more consistent than the Pole. Other topnotchers include Michel Macquet of France, Heiner Will of Germany, Viktor Tsibulenko of Russia and Sidlo's teammates, Jan Kopyto and Andrzej Walczak.
Two great Olympians will be back in the discus when the 39-year-old strong man from Italy, Adolfo Consolini (winner in '48, second in '52) and the 34-year-old Oregon cattle rancher, colorful Fortune Gordien (third in '48, fourth in '52) meet once again. Gordien holds the world record now at 194 feet 6 inches and is the favorite, but Consolini has been throwing well all year and will be tough. With the third ranker among active throwers, Karel Merta of Czechoslovakia, banned from his team, the big challenge to the two veterans may well come from Al Oerter, the 20-year-old collegian who is just beginning his Olympic career.
Others to watch include Russia's Otto Grigalka and Boris Matveyev, Ferenc Klics of Hungary and Des Koch of the U.S.
Jesse Owens' magnificent Olympic broad-jump record of 26 feet 5¼ inches, which has survived since 1936, is finally in danger. A month ago Greg Bell of the U.S., co-favorite all along with his teammate, John Bennett, to win at Melbourne, leaped 26 feet 6½ inches in a practice meet outside Los Angeles. This was the second best broad jump on record—only Owens' world mark of 26 feet 8¼ inches is better—and it meant that Bell, a young man of whom great things have been expected for more than two years, was finally ready.
This muscular ex-GI from Indiana, now that Henk Visser of The Netherlands is not competing, is the only entrant to go over 26 feet this year—although Bennett has accomplished the feat in the past. A marvel of inconsistency, Visser could have challenged the two Americans only on his very best days. In fact, perhaps the biggest threat to U.S. domination of the event—the decathlon star, Rafer Johnson, ranks close behind Bell and Bennett—is the veteran Neville Price of South Africa, who once jumped for Oklahoma, or Brazil's Ary F. de Sà.
Charlie Dumas, the world's only 7-foot high jumper and an old pro of a competitor at the ripe age of 19, must beat not only his teammates but a host of capable foreign athletes as well, for this is an event in which the rest of the world is beginning to catch up. In fact, Vern Wilson, the goateed Californian, and little Phil Reavis do not present the greatest challenge to Dumas at all. Bengt Nilsson, Sweden's consistent jumper, has done 6 feet 11¼ inches. Igor Kashkarov of Russia has shown steady improvement to gain 6 feet 10¼ this year and Nigeria's Julius Chigbolu joins Reavis and Wilson in the 6-foot-9 class. Others to watch include Ion S√∂ter of Rumania, Maurice Fournier of France, Charles Porter of Australia and Stig Pettersson of Sweden.
Bob Richards returns to defend his pole vault championship and only teammate Bob Gutowski is in the same class; in fact, they will be the only 15-footers in Melbourne since none of the other three active U.S. vaulters in that rarefied category survived the Los Angeles trials. For that matter, neither did Gutowski, but, as the alternate, he was picked to replace Jim Graham when the tall Oklahoma A&M boy voluntarily withdrew after failing to recover completely from an ankle injury. Both Richards and Gutowski have been 15 feet 5 inches this year.
The other U.S. entry, little George Mattos, has gone 14 feet 10½ inches, and that should be good enough to pick up the remaining medal. The only major threat comes from Finland's Eeles Landstr√∂m, who vaults, most of the year for the University of Michigan and, apparently absorbing some of the American talent for this eye-catching event, has improved enough to do 14 feet 9½ inches. Other good ones are Ragnar Lundberg of Sweden, Manfred Pruessger of Germany, Russia's Vitaliy Chernobay and Pyotr Denisenko. Poland's Zenon Wazny and Zbigniew Janiszewski may also get into the top six.
The hop-step-and-jump field is divided into two sharply defined groups: the 54-footers and the rest. The former includes only three names—Adhemar Ferreira da Silva of Brazil, Teruji Kogake of Japan and Russia's Leonid Shcherbakov—and there is little reason to believe their ranks will be infiltrated at Melbourne by those from below. Da Silva, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder, and until now supreme in his specialty, faces a real test: this year Kogake has done 54 feet¾ inch and Shcherbakov 54 feet even while Da Silva has been unable to get within a foot of his all-time best of 54 feet 4 inches.
Those who will furnish the main opposition to the big three include 52-footers (give or take a few inches) Arnoldo Devonish of Venezuela, Vitold Kreer and Yevgeniy Chen of Russia, Hiroshi Shibata of Japan, Czechoslovakia's Martin Rehàk, Kari Rahkamo of Finland, Walter Herssens of Belguim and America's Ira Davis.
The 20,000-meter walk is a new Olympic event (replacing the old one of 10,000 meters) and that is about all that is new here; it is still anyone's guess as to who will win or even come close in either the 20,000- or 50,000-meter stroll through the Australian countryside.
Russia is strong with such highly regarded men as Mikhail Lavrov, Georgi Klimov, Leonid Spirin, and Vladimir Ukhov; the Czechs have strength in Josef Dolezal and Ladislaw Moc. Great Britain's Don Thompson is a big name in the walking world and so is Lasse Hindmar of Sweden. There may be some better. Only Melbourne will tell.
Here there seems virtually no question at all. California's amazing Rafer Johnson has stepped right up to take over where California's equally-amazing Bob Mathias left off four years ago, and this pleasant young man with the magnificent muscles is the new world-record holder in a demanding 10-event test of speed and skill and strength which is always a big part of the Olympic Games.
His top challengers are Vasiliy Kuznetsov, a versatile Russian who has done better at the decathlon than any man in history with the exception of Johnson and Mathias, and Milt Campbell, the great natural all-round athlete who was second to Mathias at Helsinki in '52 as an 18-year-old New Jersey schoolboy.
BEST SPRINT TEAM ever assembled is the United States Olympic 400-meter relay quartet of (left to right) Leamon King, Thane Baker, Bobby Morrow and Ira Murchison.
MICHIGAN'S EELES LANDSTR√ñM FINLAND, POLE VAULT
OKLAHOMA'S NEVILLE PRICE SOUTH AFRICA, BROAD JUMP
VILLANOVA'S RON DELANY IRELAND, 1,500 METERS
MICHIGAN STATE'S KEVAN GOSPER AUSTRALIA, 400 METERS
OREGON'S JIM BAILEY AUSTRALIA, 1,500 METERS
FRESNO STATE'S MIKE AGOSTINI TRINIDAD, 100, 200 METERS
THEY TRAINED IN THE U.S.
When U.S. athletes move into Melbourne for the XVI Olympiad, some of the foreign competitors they encounter will not seem foreign at all; they will seem like old friends—and, of course, they will be. The six track and field athletes below, like the four swimmers on page 74, have all been students at, and competed for, American colleges and universities. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps just by coincidence, each is a standout contender in his specialty: Agostini, Landstr√∂m, Gosper and Price rank right behind the favored Americans in five U.S.-dominated events while Delany and Bailey are way ahead. They ran one-two at the NCAA meet last summer and each has run the mile in less than four minutes—which is something not even one of their American friends has been able to do yet.