SI Vault
Roy Terrell
November 19, 1956
Here is the heart and soul of the Olympic Games and here, once again, it will be the United States against the world—with the U.S. favored
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November 19, 1956

Watch The U.s.

Here is the heart and soul of the Olympic Games and here, once again, it will be the United States against the world—with the U.S. favored

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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.

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