Best non-U.S. shotputter is the massive, 253-pound Czech, Jir� 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 10� inches, a feat he accomplished only 11 days after Krivonosov had whipped the big iron ball out 220 feet 10� 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 3� inches under Janusz Sidlo's world record of 274 feet 5� 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 5� 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 6� inches in a practice meet outside Los Angeles. This was the second best broad jump on record—only Owens' world mark of 26 feet 8� 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 S�.
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 11� inches. Igor Kashkarov of Russia has shown steady improvement to gain 6 feet 10� 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.