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 Szentg�li 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, L�szlo T�bori, Ron Delany, Jim Bailey, Gunnar Nielsen, Istv�n R�zsav�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 R�zsav�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 S�ndor 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 T�bori, or Ibbotson, or Kovacs, or Chromik to ruin the script.
Landy, if his leg is all right, and Chataway, always a marvelous competitor, and T�bori 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 J�zsef Kov�cs, 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 S�ndor Rozsny�i (8:35.6) is even more brilliant and at the moment ranks as the logical favorite at Melbourne. Another of the fabulous Hungarians, L�szl� 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.