Editor’s note: As the 31st Games of the Olympiad approaches, August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it would be interesting to resurrect stories of former Olympics as written in Coconut Times in the summer of 1992, year of the Games in Barcelona, Spain.
The 1960 Olympic Games were held in Rome, Italy, from August 25th through September 11th. There were more than 4,000 competitors from 83 nations, and during the Games, there were a lot of great performances.
Abebe Bikila, 28-year-old man from Ethiopia, won his first of two consecutive Gold medals in 1960 in the Marathon - running barefoot! Al Oerter, from the United States, took the Gold in the discus in 1960 and will again in 1964.
Swimming in the 1960 Olympic Games provided a controversial decision which is still talked about today. Lance Larson, from the United States team and John Devitt, from the Australian team finished in a dead heat in the 100-meter freestyle race. According to the electric timers. Larson had the fastest time by one-tenth of a second. Devitt touched the end of the pool on top, while Larson touched the end underneath the water. The six judges made their decision on what they observed. Three voted for Larson, and three voted for Devitt. The chief judge changed the time to match up the two times at 55.2 seconds each, and he made the deciding vote for Devitt, even though he was five yards away from him.
In the boxing competition, a brash young lad from Louisville, Kentucky, won a Gold medal in the light-heavyweight competition. His face would later become the most recognized on earth in the years to come - his voice, also! Because of the extroversion of this young man, many other boxers of very fine quality from the United States were ignored or not pounced upon by the press even though they won Gold medals in their respective divisions - Edward Crook, USA, middleweight, and Wilbert McClure, USA, light-middleweight. And I am sure you have guessed who the brash young man from Louisville, Kentucky, was - Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali).
The Decathlon was won by another United States super athlete, Rafer Johnson. His stiffest competition came from his UCLA classmate, C. K. Yang from Nationalist China. Yang was supposed to win, but Johnson prevailed and ran the fastest race of his life, finishing just behind Yang, but his total points tallied him to be the winner of the Decathlon by 58 points.
The shot put event took on a new form when William Parry O’Brien of the United States team created a new style in which to throw it. He took the Gold in 1952 and 1956 with this new form. He took the Silver in 1960. During his entire athletic career, he broke the world record sixteen times.
The USA men’s basketball team also were great performers. At the time, they were the so-called greatest team ever in Olympic history. This team’s record during the Olympic Games was 8 wins and 0 losses, with their total points scored a whopping 815 points, with the points scored against them only 476. This rendition of the “greatest team ever” had ten of its members go on to successful careers in pro basketball. It was led by Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. This team was so strong that future Boston Celtic star John Havlicek qualified only as an alternate. With Jerry Lucas, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson leading the way, the USA won every game by at least 24 points. The USA team averaged 102 points per game while giving up just 59. It makes one wonder about the outcome with this year’s Olympic “Dream Team.” But with players like Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson and company, it would be a very exciting match up.
Also in the 1960 Olympics comes one of the most heartwarming stories in Olympic history. Wilma Rudolph, who suffered through polio, double pneumonia and scarlet fever as a child, grew up to win three Gold medals in 1960 in the 100- and 200-meter races, and the 4 x 100-meter relay - along with her teammates, Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams and Barbara Jones. They set the world record of 44.4 seconds in the semi-finals. Her heart and strong will showed us all that you can make it and reach your goals in life. Wilma Rudolph, our men’s basketball team and all of the rest of our performers on the 1960 USA Olympic team made us all proud Americans.
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