Harold Connolly, asquat, blocky man who has thrown the hammer farther than anyone else in the world, sat unhappily under a stand built to support a TV camera and stared out at the pelting rain which had interrupted his event.
"We're all doing terribly," he said morosely, and Al Hall, another U.S. contestant in the hammer throw at the Pan American Games, nodded. "This is an important meet," Connolly went on. "Good for international relations. But otherwise, it's nothing. These South American countries aren't up to world standards in most events. A few more meets like this and they may be, but not yet. Me, I'm not fired up. I'm moving into a new house, it's been a long season and I can't concentrate."
Connolly is typical of track athletes as a group—introspective, self-analytical, loquacious. In Chicago the track men spent a good deal of time talking about themselves and their events.
"Hey," Connolly said to Hall, "where are the days when we used to be vicious, we used to be tigers? Married life is ruining us both," he-said with a wry grin. "Took me a year to adjust to marriage, another year to adjust to the baby. Maybe next year I can get going again."
The rain thinned out and died away in a distant rumble of thunder over Lake Michigan. Connolly stood up, preparing to go back to the hammer circle. 'The first two-thirds of the season I averaged 217 feet," he said bitterly. "I'm stretching for 200 now. They'll laugh at me in Europe. They'll all say we should rest. You've got to have the old fire. When you don't you might as well quit, take a rest. That's what O'Brien does. When he loses it, he lays off three, four weeks. Then when he feels it come back, he gets to work."
He went out to the rain-wet cement circle from which the hammer is launched and stretched for his 200 feet. He missed it by inches and eventually finished in second place.
"It was rotten throwing," he said with disgust. "What a way to end the season."
Charley Dumas, first man ever to clear 7 feet in the high jump, waited moodily for his turn to jump. He plucked fretfully at the tiny bop musician's beard he affects and said, "This is going to be terrible tonight; that wind is murder. The bar won't stay up there. But you can't blame anyone. It's just old mama nature." He watched a tense, deadly earnest young Cuban miss. "Don't expect miracles from me," he said. "I haven't had time to work out. I been going to night school, studying geometry, and working during the day. I just came to this meet because I qualified." Dumas went on to win the high jump, at 6 feet 10� inches, good but off his best.
Sub-peak performances were the rule rather than the exception for U.S. stars at the games, and this departure from form was explained by Dick Howard, the National AAU 400-meter hurdles champion, who finished second at Chicago to the veteran Josh Culbreath.
Howard, whose hurdling technique frequently resembles the form of a small boy jumping a back fence with an armful of stolen apples, said, "This was my 78th time out of the blocks this year. It was Josh's 10th. I'm really worn out. You can't beat a man after that many races. It's hard on us college runners in a long season like this. I have a responsibility to my school [New Mexico University] and it means I run four races a meet. I can show you the clippings—HOWARD WINS FOUR EVENTS. Next year will be the same and by the time of the Olympic trials, we'll be worn out again. I wish there was a way to ease up in the spring of an Olympic year."