Bob Richards returns to defend his pole vault championship and only teammate Bob Gutowski is in the same class; in fact, they will be the only 15-footers in Melbourne since none of the other three active U.S. vaulters in that rarefied category survived the Los Angeles trials. For that matter, neither did Gutowski, but, as the alternate, he was picked to replace Jim Graham when the tall Oklahoma A&M boy voluntarily withdrew after failing to recover completely from an ankle injury. Both Richards and Gutowski have been 15 feet 5 inches this year.
The other U.S. entry, little George Mattos, has gone 14 feet 10� inches, and that should be good enough to pick up the remaining medal. The only major threat comes from Finland's Eeles Landstr�m, who vaults, most of the year for the University of Michigan and, apparently absorbing some of the American talent for this eye-catching event, has improved enough to do 14 feet 9� inches. Other good ones are Ragnar Lundberg of Sweden, Manfred Pruessger of Germany, Russia's Vitaliy Chernobay and Pyotr Denisenko. Poland's Zenon Wazny and Zbigniew Janiszewski may also get into the top six.
The hop-step-and-jump field is divided into two sharply defined groups: the 54-footers and the rest. The former includes only three names—Adhemar Ferreira da Silva of Brazil, Teruji Kogake of Japan and Russia's Leonid Shcherbakov—and there is little reason to believe their ranks will be infiltrated at Melbourne by those from below. Da Silva, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder, and until now supreme in his specialty, faces a real test: this year Kogake has done 54 feet� inch and Shcherbakov 54 feet even while Da Silva has been unable to get within a foot of his all-time best of 54 feet 4 inches.
Those who will furnish the main opposition to the big three include 52-footers (give or take a few inches) Arnoldo Devonish of Venezuela, Vitold Kreer and Yevgeniy Chen of Russia, Hiroshi Shibata of Japan, Czechoslovakia's Martin Reh�k, Kari Rahkamo of Finland, Walter Herssens of Belguim and America's Ira Davis.
The 20,000-meter walk is a new Olympic event (replacing the old one of 10,000 meters) and that is about all that is new here; it is still anyone's guess as to who will win or even come close in either the 20,000- or 50,000-meter stroll through the Australian countryside.
Russia is strong with such highly regarded men as Mikhail Lavrov, Georgi Klimov, Leonid Spirin, and Vladimir Ukhov; the Czechs have strength in Josef Dolezal and Ladislaw Moc. Great Britain's Don Thompson is a big name in the walking world and so is Lasse Hindmar of Sweden. There may be some better. Only Melbourne will tell.
Here there seems virtually no question at all. California's amazing Rafer Johnson has stepped right up to take over where California's equally-amazing Bob Mathias left off four years ago, and this pleasant young man with the magnificent muscles is the new world-record holder in a demanding 10-event test of speed and skill and strength which is always a big part of the Olympic Games.
His top challengers are Vasiliy Kuznetsov, a versatile Russian who has done better at the decathlon than any man in history with the exception of Johnson and Mathias, and Milt Campbell, the great natural all-round athlete who was second to Mathias at Helsinki in '52 as an 18-year-old New Jersey schoolboy.