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John Thomas of Boston University stepped gracefully out onto the floor of the Boston Garden before 10,000 spectators at last Saturday's Knights of Columbus track meet, first big meet of the 1960 season. A year before he had been the precocious 17-year-old sensation of the track world, the first man ever to jump seven feet indoors, a world-record-breaker (the picture at the right shows the historic moment last February at the U.S. indoor championships when Thomas cleared 7 feet 1� inches, the highest jump ever, indoors or out), the most exciting athlete to emerge in track and field since the arrival of supermiler Herb Elliott. He was America's bright new hope against the Russians in the dual meet scheduled for Philadelphia last July and a red-hot future-book favorite for the Olympics.
Then he suffered a serious injury when his left foot, the foot he takes off from, was ripped and torn in an
When the rumors came, they came thick and fast. Thomas was jumping seven feet in practice, it was reported. No comment, said Boston University Track Coach Doug Raymond. He had cleared 7 feet 2 in practice. No comment, said Raymond's assistant, Field Events Coach Ed Flanagan.
The only clear facts were these: Ed Flanagan said Thomas was just about as good as ever; the track fan himself would not find out if this was so until Thomas jumped in the K of C games, his first competition since his injury 10 months earlier.
And so, last Saturday night, Ed Flanagan wished his charge good luck and sent him into action. And John
IN JOHN'S SHADOW
And this fact utterly overshadowed the other events of a meet that was unusually good for so early in the season. Tom Murphy, the U.S. 800-meter champion, was caught napping in the stretch and was beaten by Yale's Tom Carroll in a fast (2:09.2) 1,000-yard run. Jim Stack, Carroll's teammate at Yale, ran away with the 600. Chicago's Phil Coleman, after toiling in the shadow of Ron Delany for so many years, tasted sweet victory in the mile. Don Bragg, his eye on the Olympics, did 15 feet 4 inches in the pole vault. Leonard (Buddy) Edelen, an unheralded distance man from Minnesota, ran the favored Deacon Jones into the ground in the three-mile race to win in the excellent early-season time of 13:58. Olympic Champion Lee Calhoun won the hurdles.
But the important thing was that John Thomas was back, fit and in the mood for an aggressive push toward a gold medal at Rome. It didn't really matter that Thomas missed three times at 7 feet 2� inches. He was almost as impressive in the brilliant near misses at that would-be world-record height, which gave promise of sensational jumps to come, as he was in clearing 7 feet� inch.
John Thomas' great potential was first glimpsed when he was in high school, at Rindge Tech in Cambridge, Mass. He had been jumping with an old-fashioned belly-roll style, but at the urging of his coach, Tom Duffy, he switched to the straddle roll he uses today. It took an entire year for Thomas to acquire the new technique and occasionally, almost in despair at ever learning it, he reverted to the belly roll. But Duffy discovered that Thomas was ambitious—"he was always fighting to be the best." Duffy persevered with his teaching, and Thomas learned.
Before he was out of high school he jumped 6 feet 8� and earned a trip to Japan with a touring AAU track and field group. There he jumped 6 feet 10?. That autumn he entered Boston University, a few miles down the Charles River from Rindge Tech, came under the guidance of Raymond and Flanagan and became famous. He set a new world indoor record of 6 feet 11� in his first big indoor meet, broke that with his first seven-foot jump and broke that with his winning jump in the national indoor championships. Then he injured his foot—the foot that is to high jumping what Birgitt Nilsson's vocal cords are to Wagnerian opera.