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THE HOST IS BEST
Coles Phinizy
November 19, 1956
While getting ready to stage a fierce Olympic swimming match, Australia also built a team strong enough to keep most of the gold medals at home
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November 19, 1956

The Host Is Best

While getting ready to stage a fierce Olympic swimming match, Australia also built a team strong enough to keep most of the gold medals at home

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Australia will also make a strong showing in the backstroke, then bow out and leave the lung-busting breast-stroke and butterfly events to the traditional powers. Before the men's backstroke finals all partisans should take a vow to love the officials, come what may out of a blanket finish where six or seven hands may be hitting the wall at once. To be sure of a spot in the finals, a backstroker must be able to break the Olympic record. A lanky Queenslander, David Theile, is favored to win. Theile has clocked a clean half second better than anyone, but he is erratic and might well be beaten by his Australian teammate John Monckton, by the U.S.'s 1952 Olympic champion Yoshi Oyakawa, France's 1952 runner-up Gilbert Bozon, New Zealand's Lincoln Hurring or Hungary's Laszlo Magyar. Before the Dutch stars Jopie Van Alphen and Lenie de Nijs were pulled out of the Games, the women's backstroke also promised a great final. Without the Dutch, the race loses its luster, but it will still be close. Britain's Judy Grinham, Carin Cone of the U.S. and Eva Pajor of Hungary have all swum under 1:14.5 this year.

It is in the butterfly stroke now, strangely, that the U.S. has its best chance for swimming gold medals. At breaking records under handicaps, Shelley Mann this summer matched the Australian girls, lowering the world mark for the butterfly to 1:11.8 in a slow, long-course pool that actually was 23 inches too long. If Shelley swims every event in which she has qualified—the 100-meter freestyle, the relay and the butterfly—she will swim eight races in eight days, a fair load for even a three-stroke, one-girl team like Shelley. The U.S.'s Bill Yorzyk, who took the world butterfly record away from the solidly entrenched Japanese, is a fairly safe favorite over Takashi Ishimoto of Japan.

The breaststroke at Melbourne will be perhaps a face-saver for two old swimming powers, Hungary and Japan. Hungary's girls took seven of the 10 women's gold medals at Helsinki, but now only Eva Szekely of all these veterans can be considered a favorite. Even Szekely, not really up to her 1955 form, will be hard put to beat two good Germans, Eva Ten Elsen and Ursula Happe. Before Red China pulled out there was prospect of some new blood worth watching in the men's breaststroke. Now it would take the entry of a porpoise to take the eyes of most spectators off Masaru Furukawa of Japan. Pressmen at Melbourne can with honesty hang the old cliche "human fish" on Furukawa. Still consistently three or four body lengths ahead of everybody, Furukawa now swims the first 45 meters underwater, takes a breath on alternate strokes for the next 125 meters, then, when the opposition is gasping on the surface, Furukawa burrows under again for the last 30 meters. Toting it up, he is now swimming nearly 75% of the race underwater.

It is most proper to ask the U.S. entries in the platform and springboard dives to take a bow in force: in the women's platform, again, Mrs. Pat McCormick, Paula Myers and Juno Irwin, who very likely will repeat their 1952 sweep; in women's springboard, Pat McCormick and the two blond Kewpie dolls of the Detroit A.C., Barbara Gilders and Jeanne Stunyo; the springboard men of Ohio State, Don Harper, Glen Whitten and Bob Clot-worthy; and off the platform, Gary Tobian, Willie Farrell and Dick Connor. Some of the men may not win a medal. The Russian veteran of Helsinki, Roman Brener, to name one sleeper, will be back, and Europeans say he now has more confidence off the three-meter board. As Ohio State Coach Mike Peppe points out, no one should be dismayed by the standings after the compulsory half of the men's springboard. The U.S. is best in the tough optional half. Don Harper, to name the prime example, is not a particularly clean performer in the simpler school dives, but his consistency and acrobatic skill should put him on top in the second half.

If Australia dominates the swimming at Melbourne, it is worth stating now, before headlines bark querulously WHAT HAPPENED TO THE U.S. SWIMMERS? that the U.S. men and girls are better than they were in 1952. The Australians merely did the impossible and are now on center stage. It is also well to remember that any good man in an outside lane always has a chance, particularly a veteran who wants to hang onto his 1952 honors.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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