SI Vault
 
RUSSIA WILL WIN THE 1956 OLYMPICS
Don Canham
October 25, 1954
The Soviets crushed a British team with a juggernaut of athletes at the London-Moscow games last week, despite a brilliant world's record by Chris Chataway (see page 21). Their aim is to do the same to the U.S. at Melbourne. And they will, says Michigan Track Coach Don Canham, who studied the Russians at Bern?unless we wake up to the fact that the U.S.S.R. is waging a cold war in sports
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 25, 1954

Russia Will Win The 1956 Olympics

The Soviets crushed a British team with a juggernaut of athletes at the London-Moscow games last week, despite a brilliant world's record by Chris Chataway (see page 21). Their aim is to do the same to the U.S. at Melbourne. And they will, says Michigan Track Coach Don Canham, who studied the Russians at Bern?unless we wake up to the fact that the U.S.S.R. is waging a cold war in sports

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Their coaches have studied every conceivable technique in many countries. When they compete in foreign lands, it is a fact that their movie cameramen often outnumber their coaches. The constant search for information, in fact, was responsible for my meeting the Russian Coach Kozobkoff. One morning, Lenart Strandberg, a Swedish newspaperman and friend, asked if I would meet him in a small outdoor cafe near the stadium. When I arrived he said that Kozobkoff and Vladimir Filin, an assistant, had asked him to arrange a meeting. How the Russians knew that Lenart and I were friends I'll never know. It was even more surprising to me since all week the Russian coaches and athletes were obviously avoiding contact with outsiders. More startling was Kozobkoff's perfect English as he opened the conversation by saying, "We would like certain information on American training methods, and I will answer your questions on our methods."

INCISIVE QUESTIONS

We talked for more than an hour, and Kozobkoff showed deep concern over Russia's lack of sprinters and jumpers. He asked more than once if Americans didn't have some secrets they were holding back from Europe. Each time I assured him I knew of none. He amazed me with his knowledge of styles used by American athletes, and it was clear that his study of pictures taken of our athletes at Helsinki had been thorough. My impression of both Russian coaches was that they were very competent. Kozobkoff's questions in particular were quite intelligent and technical: his answers to my questions were, however, not always to the point.

The most significant reaction I got from the talks was that Russian athletes train 12 months a year. Their track and field athletes work constantly and, unlike our own amateurs and even professionals, they don't lay off during the noncompetitive season. Kozobkoff also indicated that they felt that strength was more vital than technique, and that Russians go to great lengths to achieve it. From the appearance of their athletes, weight lifting plays an important part in their training program, women as well as men.

As we were about to leave, Kozobkoff hinted the Soviets now realize they are ready to challenge U.S. supremacy in track and field. "We have learned all we can from the Europeans about training," he said. "Now we hope to compete against America for information through competition."

The Russians arrived in Bern 10 days before the other nations for the sole purpose of acclimating themselves. Their 72 athletes and 28 officials (including 18 coaches) had a hotel renovated for their needs. Each night at 10 p.m. the main switch in the hotel was pulled by the Russian in charge. A frantic hotel manager, whose clocks and refrigerators also went off at 10 p.m., was helpless in trying to change the curfew or its methods of enforcement. Other details were as well taken care of, and their purposefulness paid off in some of the best performances in the history of the European meet.

DON'T DISCOUNT KUC

Of the seven Russians who appear to be the class of the world, Kuc was the most sensational at Bern, beating the great Czechoslovakian Emil Zatopek personally and breaking his 5,000-meter world record in the process. In London Kuc lost by a step to Chris Chataway, but he certainly is not to be written off for that. The race was one of the most incredible in track history, both men finishing five seconds under Kuc's short-lived record.

Almost as remarkable as Kuc at Bern was Mikhail Krivonosov, a tall young man who upset the world record holder, Sverre Strandli of Norway, in the hammer throw, and posted a new world mark of 207 feet 9.75 inches. The Russians had an easy winner in the hop, step and jump when their world record holder (53 ft. 3? in.) Leonid Shcherbakov defended his European championship without serious competition. In the 400-meter hurdles, they showed probably the best two men in the world. The only surprise was that Yuriy Lituyev, the world record holder at :50.4, lost a close decision to his teammate Anotoli Yulin in the near record time of :50.5.

The fifth event that Russia appears likely to dominate is the decathlon, where Vladimir Kuznetsov, the European champion, has posted the third highest total ever scored in this event. Only the retired Bob Mathias and Bob Richards, who will probably pass up the decathlon and try to repeat in the pole vault, have outscored the Russian.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5