WOODY AND THE LADY, THE EXPLODED MYTH OF THE INVINCIBLE RUSSIANS, PRIDE AND LEE CALHOUN, EXOTIC SPORTS FROM THE U.S., OLYMPIC GAMESMANSHIP, OTHER AMERICANS IN AUSTRALIA
THE LADY AND THE COACH
The way Woody Hayes, Ohio State's head football coach, told it at the annual "football appreciation" banquet, it happened this way:
"I was walking across the field, head down, after we had lost to Michigan. A sweet little old lady suddenly crossed my path, and I almost knocked her down. I guess I looked rather irritated, but then I saw she was a friend. She was carrying an Ohio State pennant. I apologized. 'I beg your pardon, madam,' I said. 'No offense.'
"She looked me right in the eye and shook her pennant under my nose. 'That's just the trouble,' she said. 'No offense!' "
If the propagandists of the Soviet Union had not given such a brash exhibition of what might be called muscle-rattling before the Olympics it would be unkind to ask—but—what happened to the Russian juggernaut? The U.S., which permitted itself a great deal of self-doubt (and was spurred to a great deal of very healthy resolution) in the last two years, should take great pride in the answer: the juggernaut was practically dismantled by the greatest track and field team in history. In fact, it would be only slight exaggeration to say that the blue Soviet steam roller, stripped to its essentials, turned out to be Vladimir Kuts.
It would be improper to say that the juggernaut collapsed, for, despite the calamity howlers on both sides of the Atlantic who predicted an end of American supremacy in track and field, it never really existed. It would also be rash to predict that Russia may not yet claim, on the basis of an unofficial point total, victory in the Melbourne Games. The 400-man Russian team—biggest in the Games—is doing pretty well. The U.S.S.R. took 22 gold medals, 30 silver medals and 17 bronze medals at Helsinki in 1952 and—with 18 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze medals won by last weekend—may do even better this year. But the heart of the Olympics consists of the events in which young men run, jump or throw, and here the record is wonderfully lopsided: the U.S. won 15 times (an all-time record) and got 31 medals; the Russians won three times ( Kuts's victories in the 10,000- and 5,000-meter races, plus a victory in the 20-kilometer walk) and got 21 medals.
There is nothing unfair at all in singling out track and field in this manner, for the Russians lusted to win in the main stadium too and were apparently confident of striking a good many telling blows there in a battle of behemoths. In many instances, it is interesting to note, the very professionalism of the Russians—and the fact that they had been told and retold that national prestige depended upon them—cost them medals in the end. Under the awful pressure they were often (notably in the cases of Pole Vaulter Anatoliy Petrov, Hammer Thrower Mikhail Krivonosov and Hurdler Yuriy Lituyev) unable to come close to practice performances. But the real story of track and field at Melbourne had nothing to do with the Russians—it was one of tremendous superiority by individual U.S. athletes, of great coaching, great spirit and, in many cases, of great valor, of peak performance under enormous stress. Hooray for our side!
THE ACHING MOMENT