SI Vault
December 13, 1954
FAST WORK Sirs:Have just finished reading your Nov. 22 issue of SI, and enjoyed it as much as the preceding issues.
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December 13, 1954

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

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This is an event in which I am greatly interested as I witnessed Longboat's training at Kilmallock, County Limerick, Ireland and was present at the race.... Longboat was inclined to tip his elbow and was a constant source of worry on that account to his trainers.

After the race (on a very hot day, by the way) it was common knowledge that a tremendous betting coup had been put across. His trainer was a Canadian bookmaker who laid 10 to 1 against Longboat.... He was leading at 20 miles when he was given champagne with possibly something else in it and shortly after he dropped out. I had followed him on a bicycle twice while training over the full route and never saw him distressed. You can never convince me he wasn't "jobbed" or that possibly $100,000 was not won on his failure.

By the way, the 1908 games was the occasion when the running of the 440 was declared "no race" at the halfway mark on account of the "boxing" by the U.S. runners and when ordered to be rerun in lanes we refused to run....

Thanks for SI which I enjoy tremendously.

?In retrospect the 1908 Olympics seem a comedy of mismanagement. Originally awarded to Italy, the games were shifted to London due to the '06 eruption of Vesuvius and other internal difficulties. Lord Desborough, an internationally admired sportsman and head of the British Olympic Committee, set up and supervised the games with great goodwill and enthusiasm, but soon had so much trouble on his hands that '08 is sometimes called the Battle of Shepherds Bush after London's stadium. First of all the U.S. and Sweden discovered that their country's flags were nowhere to be seen among those of the competing nations; the proudly independent Finns, however, were assigned Russian flags (a Russian idea), and the Irish were horrified at being assigned to the British team. The U.S. considered marathoner Longboat a professional; the Italians protested the decision of the famous Marathon (see SI, Nov. 1); Canada and France were miffed over the conduct of the cycling races and Swedish wrestlers withdrew from the Graeco-Roman events. Great and lasting bitterness, however, was caused by the 400-meter run. Here one of England's favorite sons, Lieut. Wyndham Halswelle, was matched against three Americans: Carpenter of Cornell, Robbins of Harvard and Taylor of the Irish-American A. C. Days before, English papers darkly hinted at the skulduggery that could be expected from the Americans, U.S. Coach Murphy cautioned his men to stay out of trouble and on the great day itself spectators were urged to bear in mind Lord Nelson's instructions at Trafalgar ("England expects..."). The race itself has been the subject of arguments for over 45 years. Carpenter led into the finish, but had he blocked Halswelle at the turn? Who cut the finish tape and why did English officials obstruct Taylor in the stretch? It was rerun the next day with the inaptly named Halswelle sadly walking the distance as the only entrant.?ED.

I thought that the article by Don Canham in SI, Oct. 25 deserved some comment. My only wish is that I had received the magazine copy earlier so that it might have been possible to counter his article to some extent, but my being over here prevents my getting the issues any earlier than a month after publication.

In the first place, if America "loses" the Olympics, either over-all or just in track and field, she will be hoisted by her own petard. America is the country that invented the slogan "We Won the Olympics" when everybody else was just interested in the individuals who competed. It was very easy for us to win the games when there were no large, athletically minded countries competing in them. Mr. Canham mentions the 1920 games when Finland won as many events as we did. Doesn't he consider that a country of 3 million people has won when it ties one of 130-140 million in the matter of gold medals? In all probability the 1940 games would have resulted in a defeat for the U.S. at the hands of Germany. Only the start of World War II prevented that from taking place....

More important is the fact that Mr. Canham believes that the Russian team at Berne was a surprise. Before the 1952 Olympics I spoke to a group of newspapermen at Helsinki and the consensus was that the Russians would win between 8 and 10 events in male track and field events and probably everything in the women's events. They ended up taking the lowest number in the men's events and lost three of the women's events. If anything, the surprise at Berne was the great weakness of the Russians in various events, especially the sprints and jumps. This is especially true if the times that have come out of Russia have been correct. Eleven Russians have done 10.7 for the 100 meters in the past year and a half (Sanadze has been timed at 10.4 this year), yet they could not find two men to beat 10.7 seconds and qualify for the final at Berne. Sanadze couldn't even get into the semifinals. Very much the same was true in the other flat shorter races (under 5,000 meters) with the exception of Ignatjev. The latter looks like one of the truly fine sprinters in the world. His 46.6 in the 400 meters was achieved rather easily and he has since done 46.1?although this latter may be around one turn.

...An indicative sign of Russian strength is the fact that Anufriyev, who has been considered their second best distance man (behind Kuc), has completely fallen apart this year. There is really no other Russian besides Kuc who can compete with the Zatopek, Kovacs, Schade and company over the Woolworth courses.

As for the other Russian runners, they don't appear to be a threat except in the 400-meter hurdles. Bulanchik would have to use a pogo stick to keep up with the three best Americans and the Jamaican Gardner. In the steeplechase, Rinteenpaa and Karvonen of Finland, the Norwegian Larsen and Rosznyoi and Jeszenszky of Hungary are a greater threat than any of the Russians to Horace Ashenfelter (and of course the Pole Chromik who was unable to run in the final at Berne). In the field events only Scherbakov and Krivonosov look like potential winners. Yet both face extremely strong competition. The former from A.F. de Silva of Brazil and the latter from the more consistent Strandli and Csermak.

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