Despite the several conspicuous U.S. weaknesses, American fans had things to cheer about. Real progress seems to have been made in a few lesser Olympic sports, such as fencing and gymnastics.
Individually, a few promising U.S. athletes came to the fore in a way that suggests they may be at peak performance by Olympic time. Not only has 19-year-old Arnold Sowell emerged as the likely successor to aging Mai Whitfield in the 800-meter run, but Lon Spurrier, who pressed Sowell to the tape in the Pan-American 800 and who set a new world record in the half mile last Saturday (see EVENTS & DISCOVERIES), is a strong running mate. Seldom has the U.S. been blessed at one time with three such fleet quarter-milers as Lou Jones, Jim Lea and Jesse Mash-burn, 1-2-3 finishers in the record-breaking 400. Sprinter Rod Richard came within a tenth of a second of world records in both the 100- and 200-(around bend) meter dashes. Josh Culbreath was only one second shy of tying the world record (held by Russian Yuri Lituev) in the grueling 400-meter hurdles, Roy Range and John Bennett both exceeded 26 feet in the broad jump, the U.S. 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams won handily, and old Olympic stand-bys like Hurdler Jack Davis, Shot Putter Parry O'Brien, Pole Vaulter Bob Richards, Discus Thrower Fortune Gordien and Javelin Thrower Bud Held all came through in a style that indicated they would carry weight at Melbourne. In the classic decathlon, big, young Rafer Johnson, a UCLA freshman, seemed likely to threaten Bob Mathias' world decathlon record until he lapsed into near exhaustion in the last few events.
Among American girl athletes, Olympic Diving Champion Pat McCormick (see page 54) repeated her Olympic wins in the springboard and platform dives and expects to crown her career by doing it once again at Melbourne. Blond Jeanne Stunyo was a close second in the springboard dive and looked like a coming champion. Another girl to watch is High Jumper Mildred McDaniel, who tied both the American and Olympic records and came within a breath of tying the Soviet-held world record.
Nevertheless, for the American athletes who want to do well at Melbourne, a full year and a half of hard training and competition lies ahead. By then some of our present shining lights may be dimmed, and others glowing in their place. As Swimmer Clarke Scholes, an Olympic and Pan-American champion, said ruefully: "Hell, there's so many good swimmers around back in the States I'll be lucky even to make the Olympic squad."
More than anything else the 1955 Pan-American Games turned out to be a valuable proving ground of competitive heart and sinew that should pay off in the best Olympic squad in U.S. athletic history. A good many returning heroes agreed with Lou Jones who said after breaking the world 400-meter mark: "I can't exactly explain what happened, but something moved me." The hope is that whatever it is, it will keep on moving them.