But if heroes are having their day in Melbourne, the Games have been almost as notable because of great athletes who have failed. During the first three days almost all competitors ran remarkably true to form, and favorites won almost every event: Dumas (high jump), Connolly (hammer throw), Davis (400-meter hurdles), Courtney (800 meters), Danielsen (javelin), and the Rev. Bob Richards in the pole vault. Since then, however, upsets have almost been the rule—in no fewer than eight events, world record holders have failed to win, and in some cases they have even failed to place.
Thirty-four-year-old Fortune Gordien, brawny holder of the world discus record, failed in Olympic competition for the third time. In the 1948 Games (after two years of unbroken victory) he got third; in 1952 at Helsinki he did no better than fourth. Last week, after exceeding his own world record of 194 feet 6 inches by four feet only a few days before in practice, he folded again. His 20-year-old teammate Al Oerter made a nonchalant toss of 184 feet 10� inches on his first throw, and that won the gold medal. Gordien, now an Oregon rancher, could do no better than 179 feet 9� inches and barely squeaked into second place.
Lou Jones of New Rochelle, N.Y., the world's best quarter-miler, failed too; he ran out of steam in the stretch and finished fifth in a field of six. But again another and younger U.S. athlete rushed into the breach—Charley Jenkins of Villanova hit the tape first with Germany's Karl-Friedrich Haas second, Russia's Ardalion Ignatiev and Finland's Voitto Hellsten in an unusual dead heat for third. The list of the mighty who fell stretches on; it includes most of the world's most famous milers. Only one of the famous also-rans seemed happy—Czechoslovakia's ancient Emil Z�topek could do no better than sixth in the marathon, but he had entered only to savor the thrill of competition once more and seemed delighted to hear that Mimoun, his old adversary, had finally won a gold medal.
Amid the crash of collapsing reputations, three eminently stable fellows stood fast. Parry O'Brien, invincible master of the world's shotputters, lobbed his big iron ball 60 feet 11 inches and won an Olympic gold medal for the second time. Pole Vaulter Bob Richards duplicated his 1952 triumph, and so did Brazil's genius of the hop, step, and jump, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, a man with a very solid soul and very springy legs.
Meanwhile, of course, Melbourne has been fairly littered with other Olympic contests and almost continuously noisy with the shouts of a citizenry which will hive watchfully about almost any known form of sporting activity.
For suspense, nothing in the Games has yet quite equaled the hesitant, if determined way Yale's eight-oared crew proceeded to final victory in the 2,000-meter final at Lake Wendouree, a 1�-mile length of frequently wind-lashed water 70 miles from Melbourne. Yale, the favorites, set out finishing third behind Australia and Canada in their first preliminary heat. To make the finals at all they had to win a second-chance repechage race. They made it. After that they had to take the Aussies on again and an unorthodox Russian crew as well. They made it again, toiling against a 15-mile-an-hour wind. But could they win three days in a row? Only the finalists—Sweden, the tough Australians and the tough Canadians—held the answer.
Forty thousand people gathered among the trees and meadows along the banks of the water to see the riddle solved. It was not an easy process. Canada led at 300 meters, the Australians at 400. Canada forged ahead at 500 meters, and the Aussies caught them again at 800. Yale, already hitting 36 strokes to the minute, one or two above their normal racing beat, got into the scrap at the halfway point; then with 600 meters to go, they hit 40, held it all the way to the finish line and scraped through with a half-length lead and victory—the eighth consecutive eight-oared championship for the U.S. in Olympic rowing.
Their Frank Merriwell finish took every last ounce of starch they had possessed—both the No. 6 man, Caldwell Esseltyne, and the No. 3 man, John Cooke collapsed from exhaustion and the rest of the oarsmen were limp. But on reconstructing the race, they gave Coxswain Bill Becklean credit for victory—to raise the beat from the awful 36 to the fantastic 40 without frightening his charges to death he had simply called: "Let's take it up to 34!" The oarsmen, thus simultaneously reproved and soothed, then rowed like madmen. "If we'd known we were already hitting over 35," said No. 4 man Don Beer, "I think we'd have faded."
Through it all, the unfailing guarantee of the success of the Games has been the enthusiasm of their Australian hosts. The enthusiasm has been healthily partisan. One Melbourne paper complacently asserted that "a Pakistani or Liberian gets the same applause from this impartial crowd as an Australian." Nothing could have been further from the truth. The very mention of an Australian, as drawn in lane so and so, in heat thus and thus, was always enough to draw tumultuous cheers. Now the country is really winding up to celebrate Australia's swimming supremacy.
Aussie expectations were dramatically upheld last week on the second night of swimming competition when the world's eight best men met for the 100-meter freestyle. The 5,500 spectators in seats around the Olympic pool cheered almost every preliminary movement by the Australians—and were echoed by hundreds more milling unhappily outside. "Ladies and gentlemen," pleaded an official voice over the loudspeakers, "we realize your excitement at the prospect of this competition, but in fairness to the swimmers we cannot start until we have absolute silence." It was a lot to ask the excited audience—for there before their very eyes was the broad-chested, sandy-haired Jon Henricks, Australia's 21-year-old super-swimmer, about to make his bid for glory. Quiet finally fell.