• Rome 1960

Rome 1960 - Quick Hits

ESPN staff
October 12, 2011
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Irina Press wins the 80 metre hurdles © Getty Images

Olympic tragedy
The Rome Games witnessed many dramas; a Danish cyclist, Knud Eneberg-Jensen, died following a 100km team time trial due to a combination of doping and heat exposure. He became only the second person to die during the Olympic Games, the other was Francisco Lazaroa, a Portuguese marathon runner, in 1912.

American swimmer Lance Larson was robbed of the 100m freestyle title after a controversial race in Rome. Although two electronic devices recorded that Larson touched home ahead of John Devitt, judges awarded the gold medal to the Australian. The Americans disputed the decision for four years, but the ruling was never overturned.

Brilliance in bare feet
The Rome marathon was run at night. The Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, a soldier at the Imperial Palace of Haile Selassie, won gold after covering the 26 miles running barefoot. He crossed the line at exactly the same spot where, 25-years earlier, Mussolini had deployed his troops for their colonialist campaign in Ethiopia.

The sabre-fencing competitor, Hungarian Aladar Gerevich, celebrated his 50th birthday on the day he won gold in the team event. This was his 10th Olympic medal, his seventh gold. Twenty-four years separated his first medal, won in 1936 in Berlin, from his last. His father-in-law, Albert Bogen, had previously won the silver medal in the sabre team event for Austria in 1912. His wife, Eva Bogathy, won the bronze in the individual foil fencing event in 1932 and his son won the bronze in 1972 and 1980 in the individual sabre event.

Pope Jean XXIII was present to give his papal blessing to a thousand athletes in Saint Paul's square before the beginning of the competitions. He watched the semi-finals of the canoe-kayak event from the windows of his home in Verano.

Beating the odds
The American, Wilma Rudolph, winner of the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m, took revenge on an almost debilitating bout of polio, pneumonia and scarlet fever which she contracted during childhood. The 20th child in a family of 22, the illness proved no match for Rudolph's determination and sporting ambitions.

The Chinese of Taiwan participated as of 1956 under the name Formosa, a fact that was not welcomed by the leaders of mainland China. Behind the flag-bearer an athlete registered the feelings of the delegation by holding aloft a banner stating "under protest."

Age is no barrier
By winning the silver medal in the javelin at the age of 37 and 348 days, the Czech athlete Dana Zatopekova, wife of the legendary runner Emil Zatopek, was the oldest medal winner at the Games.

Professional appeal
Ten of the 12 players involved in the American basketball delegation, who displayed their superiority in the final against Brazil, were regarded as professionals. Among them featured Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Jerry West, Walt Bellamy and Terry Dischinger.

The joy of six
The Swede Gert Fredriksson won his sixth gold medal, becoming at the same time the most decorated kayak competitor in Olympic history. From 1948 to 1960 Fredriksson wrote an impressive page in medal history: 1948: K1 (1000m and 10,000m), 1952: K1 (1000m), 1956: K1 (1000m and 10,000m), 1960: K2 (1000m).

The Soviet Elvira Ozolina, who won the javelin event in Rome, felt so humiliated by her fifth place in the Games four years later that she shaved her head, refusing to hide her head under a scarf.

Due to an earthquake which had just ravaged part of their country, the Chilean delegation lined up for the opening ceremony wearing black headbands.

Versatility from Mr Universe
The American weightlifter, Tommy Kono, won the silver medal in the middleweight division. He took his third consecutive Olympic medal but, uniquely, all three were in different weight categories: (1952: lightweight, 1956 light-heavyweight). Outside the Olympic arena Kono was twice voted Mr Universe.

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