Saturday, December 1, 2018

1968 Echo Summit Color Photo Treasures

Joe Head's 
Historic Echo Summit Ektachrome Slides 
See the Light of Day

by Mark Cullen
with Joe Head

As young Joe Head toed the line of the 1968 US Olympic Trials Marathon, he said to himself, "I am in the presence of greatness." Near him was Billy Mills, who four years earlier had inspired him to run.

1968 was a landmark year in young Head's life. After running the Trials race in Alamosa, Colorado, he flew to Reno to join his parents on vacation. 

In the Reno airport he saw a flier for a track and field meet at the US Olympic High Altitude Training Camp (elevation 7,382ft/2,250m), and Head asked his host to drop him off at Echo Summit for the day.

Good thing - for us - that he did.

With his camera he created this unique record of a
remarkable place and time.

Head took these slides on August 31, 1968, at the last track meet preceding the Echo Summit Men's Olympic Trials.

Head is releasing these photos on December 1, 2018, in honor of and in conjunction with the celebration of the 1968 US Men's Olympic Team at the USATF convention in Columbus, Ohio.

This is the first widespread distribution of his archive, and trackerati could not be more honored than to be entrusted with bringing Head's collection to light. 

More on Head below; scroll down to see the slides and then read the story of how Head came to create
this record of an such an important slice of US track and field history.

Joe Head's comments are in italics.

(Hint: if you have a touch screen device, it helps, at times, to expand the picture.)

1. Jim Ryun
Head: I originally took this Ektachrome slide of Jim Ryun the day I visited the South Lake Tahoe Echo Summit Olympic Track and Field site back in late August 1968. 

2. Tracy Smith
3000 meter steeplechase water hazard. 

Tracy Smith,1968 10,000m AAU national champion and 11th place finisher in the Mexico City Olympics 10,000m event, is sitting in the foreground taking pictures with a Ushikamat camera.

Bob Price, Smith's roommate at Echo Summit, 
is at the top of the water jump directly above 
Tracy Smith's head.

1. Conrad Nightingale, 8:59.2
2. Bob Price, 9:01.2
3. Pat Traynor, 9:09.6

3. Lee Evans, Larry James, Mark Winzenreid
Epic 600m
600m finish. 
Lee Evans 1st -1:14.3
Larry James 2nd - 1:14.5
Mark Winzenried 3rd - 1:14.8
Still the Jr. World Record for the 600m!.

This is the only known photograph 
of Winzenreid's World Junior Record.

When this was first posted on Facebook, 
Winzenreid said that it was the first time he had seen a photo of the race.

Note that Evans is setting foot on the finish line.
James is in the white shirt 
just to the inside of Winzenreid in red.

Evans' 1:14.3 shattered the world best by 2.2 seconds!

4. Pole Vault
At the 2014 Echo Summit dedication,
 Tommie Smith said of pole vaulter 
Bob Seagren clearing the bar
 during practice in the forest,
 "I thought he had fallen out of a tree!"

5. 1500m
1500m 1st heat back stretch, 3rd lap,
with Jim Ryun running in 3rd place. 
Jack Daniels is calling splits.

Runners in order:

1. John Mason
2. Roscoe Divine
3. Jim Ryun
4. Tracy Smith

Just behind Divine and leaning on the 
steeplechase barrier is Tom Von Ruden.

Said Mason, "I remember Jack yelling out times 
to me, Divine, and Ryun."

According to Kenny Moore's book, 

"The Men of Oregon," 
University of Oregon track coach 
Bill Bowerman was responsible 
for siting this track at almost exactly the same altitude as Mexico City.

6. 1500m
1500m 1st heat - back stretch

1. Barry Brown

2. Bob Day
3. Dave Wilborn
4. Tom Von Ruden
5. Sam Bair 

7. 800m
1. Ron Kuchinski (Michigan)
2. Ray Arrington (Wisconsin)
3. Dave Patrick (Villanova)

Said the late Steven Hoag of this 1-2, 

"Reppin' the Big 10!"

8. Shot Put
We agree with Track and Field News Editor 
Garry Hill that the shot putter is "almost certainly" 
Randy Matson.

9. Start of 400m
In this race Vince Matthews ran a world best 44.4,
but the time was not approved as a world record 
as he set it wearing 
the infamous Puma brush spikes.

10. 110m High Hurdles

11. Steeplechase

12. 3000m
1. Barry Brown - 8:24.2
2. Steve Stageberg - 8:25.0

13. Steeplechase Water Jump

14. High Jump Area

In the background are the
Discus, Javelin and Hammer Throw areas.

15. Backstretch
Back stretch of the Echo Summit Tartan track. 
Long Jump runway and trainer's tent can be seen at the edge of the infield.

16. Jim Ryun Autograph
Years later I would get to meet Jim and his family at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, TX where I was working at the time. He graciously autographed this enlargement of the original shot for me.

Joe Head with the camera
he used at Echo Summit.
It is a Nikon Nikonos 35mm,
Nikon's original underwater camera.
Jacques Cousteau assisted in its design.

Head used Ektachrome slide film (ASA 64),
and took all of the Echo Summit images
using the tripod pictured above.
He estimates that the shutter speed was 1/250th of a second.

Head stored his historic slides in what were once ubiquitous yellow slide boxes for 30 years. He transferred them to plastic archival sheets, 
and they were stored at room temperature along with his other photos and slides. 
He then had them digitized.

Along the way, in 1997, they survived in a downstairs closet the rupture of a water pipe upstairs.

Head still has the originals and - archivist and historian to the core - 
he recorded race information on the white band of each slide.

These are the first known color images of the August 31, 1968 
Echo Summit meet to have emerged.

Photo taken in a Berlin, West Germany,
hotel room in 1967.

Joe Head Today
by Mark Cullen
Joe Head (l) with legendary coach Joe Vigil (r)
at the 1968 Olympic Marathon Trials Reunion
in Alamosa, CO, July 28, 2018
Joe Head sees himself as an unlikely runner. He says he was a 'chubby, nonathletic kid' who was inspired to run by Billy Mills as well as by a teacher who read a story about a Boston Marathon runner who became a World War II courier. 

A geology major at Penn State, Head started running marathons in college. Head credits Penn State Coach John Lucas' tough physical conditioning class - which he took four times - for challenging him to challenge himself, and he quickly improved to indoor times of 2:12.3 (880y) and 4:53.1 (mile). Head has run 22 marathons, two 50-mile ultras, and has completed the Pike's Peak marathon five times. 

Head's interest in physiology led to his current career as a physician assistant. His arrival at Penn State was "serendipitous," he says.

"My freshman year (1966) was the same year that Penn State's human performance lab - Noll Laboratory - became involved in cooperative high altitude studies" with several other universities. Head is something of a hero in Penn State alumni circles, as multiple articles about the 50th anniversary of the Olympic Trials marathon on their website attest.

Before becoming a physician assistant, Head  completed a masters degree in exercise physiology while working as a "treadmill tech" in the practice of none other than Dr. Kenneth Cooper - of Aerobics fame - where Head tested many of the world's greatest athletes, including Jim Ryun, who signed the photo (above) many years after Head took it at Echo Summit.

Head finds it remarkable that he was able to enter the 1968 Olympic Trials marathon at all. He and Bill Lamb drove from Cimarron, New Mexico, where Head had a summer job as Program Counselor for the Philmont Scout Ranch, to Alamosa, Colorado, site of the Trials marathon, the day before the race. They did so thinking they could register on the day of the race, as that was the information Track and Field News had published in the April magazine.

But they encountered race co-director Joe Vigil, who would have none of a late entry. Head and Lamb, quite discouraged, spent the night in a dormitory lounge, and tried again the next morning. This time they encountered US distance legend Buddy Edelen - first US under 30:00, first under 2:20, and marathon world record holder - who welcomed the pair with open arms. Still, chastened by the previous day's experience, they really didn't believe they were in the race until the gun went off and they were running. Later they learned that another runner was attempting to enter late as well - some guy named Shorter.

He got in, too.

Head says he went out too fast, and during the 3rd of
5, 5.2 mile loops, he began walking. He got his stride back and completed the race, quite an accomplishment at altitude (7543'/2299m), and this on a day when men named Mills, Burfoot, Shorter, and Higdon comprised one of the most impressive DNF (did not finish) lists in US history, with two Olympic gold medalists (one past - Mills, and one future - Shorter) among them.

Head grew up in Gouverneur, New York, and now lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Who is Head in his community, the man who for so long was a keeper of the Echo Summit flame? When word broke this past October that it was National Physician Assistant Week, Facebook lit up, cakes appeared, and tributes flowed from loyal, grateful clients. 

Joe Head (R) and Steve Wilkerson (L) are celebrated during
National Physician Assistant Week
"The best PAs in McDowell County... proud of you... awesome... blessed to have them both... thank you for all you do for this community." 

Still keeping the flame.

We are posting this knowing that it is a work in progress. If you have information relevant to these photos - most especially if you can identify one or more of the athletes not yet identified - please contact Joe Head and Mark Cullen (please copy us both):

Joe Head:
Mark Cullen:

Thank you.

Personal note: It's been my great personal privilege and pleasure to have worked on this project for the last several months with Joe Head. I'm very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to our continued association as we unravel the mysteries of the identities of all of the athletes in his treasured images. 

Joe and I would like to thank Chris Allison for his kind assistance with placing watermarks on the photos.

Thanks, too, to Mike Fanelli, for extricating the results of this meet from his famous Track and Field Garage and sending them to us. Solid.

Highly recommended reading
Bob Burns' Track in the Forest is the definitive work on the 1968 Echo Summit High Altitude Training Camp. Burns does an outstanding job of placing the Echo Summit experience into the broader cultural and political context of a turbulent time. Available from the Chicago Review Press and on Amazon.

Photos/Ektachrome slides 
Copyright 1968 and 2018, Joe Head, All Rights Reserved.

Photos may be reproduced only with the express written consent of Joe Head.

Text in italics
Copyright 2018, Joe Head, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Choreographing Our Future

"The Pursuit of the Dream Heals Broken Souls"
Billy Mills in Coos Bay, Oregon

Copyright 2018. Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved.

Billy Mills at Steve Prefontaine's High School
Billy Mills, described by Superintendent Bryan Trendell as a "national treasure," gave an inspiring presentation to a rapt audience of engaged students at Coos Bay's Marshfield High School on Tuesday morning. Linda Prefontaine, who organized this event, gave a thoughtful and insightful introduction. Then Billy Mills had the audience spellbound.

On October 14, 1964, "I laid footprints that forever changed my life," said Mills of his historic 10,000m win at the Tokyo Olympics. "I truly felt I had wings on my feet."

"Olympians are chosen by the gods," he said, and "someday you may have wings of an eagle."

He described himself as once having been a "broken soul." Mills, who had lost both of his parents by the time he was 12, found healing in having a dream.

"It's the pursuit of the dream that heals broken souls."

Before his father's untimely death from a stroke, his father assured him, "Magic happens, son."

Mills' positive message was one arrived at through the heartbreak of being a Native American unwelcome in his native land. 

"I was not ready for the racism I would find in America," he said.

It was not uncommon for him to be asked to step out of victory photos, for example. For three years in a row of being a cross country All-American, two photos were taken after every race - one with him in, and one with him out.

Mills blended the "virtues and values from my culture" and transformed them into ones which he applied to his marriage and his lifetime goals.

"Pat was the first person to believe in me," he said of his wife. "I took the virtues and values of my Olympic pursuit and turned them into being a better husband and man. These were the things that gave us confidence."

Just as Mills set out on a quest to find what was broken and heal himself, now he passes that experience on to the younger generation.

"What we need to do is come together," he said. "You need to collectively choreograph your future."

He appreciates the platform that he gave himself, and today, at 80, he continues to be passionate about the opportunity to help others.

"Everyday I celebrate my victory when I heal a broken soul."

After his stirring speech, students formed a long queue to greet him, he met with the student leadership class, and students who wanted to engage with him for just a moment stopped him on his way to the car. 

Every time he met a student he asked, "Do you read?" He encouraged civic engagement and good citizenship every step of the way.

A magnificent day with Mills became even richer with the showing of "Running Brave" at the Egyptian Theater, which was followed by a question and answer session with the public.

Mills concluded the evening with unifying comments about the divisiveness that pervades our country. 

"We need to tell our own stories," Mills said. "If we can tell our own stories we can come together. The most powerful prayer in my tribal language is, 'We are all related.' "

"But there is fear," he continued. "Fear in America. We have to overcome that fear with knowledge, and our young people play a major, major role by learning, by coming together."

"We have to have the strength and the courage - collectively - through our tax system - to reach into the poverty pockets of America and give opportunity.

"Never in the history of our existence as a country has the need for tribal, state, and federal governments - along with our marketplace - to come together and collectively choreograph the horizon of our future been greater.

"It starts with our young people."

Billy Mills with Student Leadership Class at Marshfield High School

Personal Notes
Before the evening presentation, we took advantage of some great photo opportunities at the Prefontaine murals in downtown Coos Bay. Below you'll see Billy Mills and Linda Prefontaine in one; Billy Mills and yours truly in the other. 

Thanks to Linda Prefontaine for putting together Billy Mills' memorable visit. It was an excellent learning experience for all the students and runners Mills reached out to and connected with. 

Thanks to all who came, and thanks, too, to Linda for her invitation for me to introduce Mills, and for her warm and kind introduction of me last evening.

Billy Mills and Linda Prefontaine

Two American Distance Legends 
(Scroll Up!)

Billy Mills – Introduction
copyright 2018. Mark Cullen/ All Rights reserved.

Every Olympics has an image – a snapshot – a moment seared in our minds forever that one iconic moment that captures the spirit of that quadrennium’s games.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were a games of the expected, yet for all the outstanding accomplishments of favorites like Bob Hayes, Al Oerter, Wyomia Tyus, and Edith McGuire, the lasting image of the ’64 Olympics is none of these.

As you know from the film you just saw, Billy Mills was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Although Pine Ridge is very rich in culture and spirit, it has long been recognized as one of the poorest communities in America with unemployment often reaching 80%.

Yet it was here that a future Olympic Champion, Olympic record holder, and world record holder took his first steps towards greatness.

In spite of the absence of major championships on his resume, he had trained with a focus and determination since he was 12 with only one goal in mind: an Olympic gold medal.

He arrived in Tokyo well ‘under the radar screen,’ and the world was about to see the greatest upset in Olympic history unfold.

I’ve long thought Mills’ stunning victory was best summarized by the reporter who came up to him afterwards and asked: “Who are you?”

To give our many runners in the audience some context of the nature of his triumph that day, suffice it to know that he set a personal record by nearly 2 seconds per lap for the 25 lap race.

While most discussions of Mr. Mills’ running achievements seem to end with Tokyoit’s important to note that the following year, while winning our national championships with a dramatic lean at the tape over his Tokyo roommate, Gerry Lindgren, he set a world record for six miles of 27:11.6.

Today, Mr. Mills is an accomplished businessman, author, and national spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a division of Christian Relief Services. In this role, he has helped raise millions of dollars in cash and in-kind gifts for charities worldwide, and now has launched and supported the Dreamstarter program for Native American youth.

He has received five honorary doctorates, is a member of six Halls of Fame, and the Distinguished Service Citation of the University of Kansas Alumni Association cites his outstanding achievement for the betterment of humankind.

Just days ago – in fact hours before the 54th anniversary of his stirring triumph - he was inducted into the inaugural class of the National Native American Hall of Fame.

And to top it all off, in 2012, he was awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal by President Obama.

This evening we see that Mr. Mills’ life is about far more than one moment of greatness; rather. it’s about what he’s done with the platform that that moment of greatness has provided him – or, to put it far more accurately, which he provided for himself.

Greatness, in Mr. Mills’ case, is a lifelong experience.

Tonight, we have the great privilege of meeting with Billy Mills, and in no less a place than Coos Bay, OR, where someone else was also known for running brave.

Thank you, Linda Prefontaine, for making this opportunity happen.

Those of you who were at the high school this morning saw the video of the finish of Mr. Mills’ Tokyo 10,000m race, and tonight we’ve seen the recreation of one of the most iconic last laps in distance running history.

Many of you have noted that he finished in lane 4… In spite of what almost every coach will tell you about finishing in lane 1, some rules are made to be broken!

In both videos we’ve seen 1964’s iconic image, the smile that would not end – a testament to what happens when you are Running Brave, Running Strong,
and running with unfettered joy.

Let’s Welcome Billy Mills!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Billy Mills to Speak in Steve Prefontaine's Hometown

1964 Olympic 10,000m gold medalist Billy Mills will speak in Steve Prefontaine's hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon, on Tuesday, October 30.

The inspirational biopic "Running Brave" will be screened at the Egyptian Theater at 6:00pm. Following a brief intermission, Mills will engage in a question and answer session with the public.

Admission is free.

The Egyptian Theater is located at 229 South Broadway:

Poster courtesy Prefontaine Productions LLC
In 2014, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his Tokyo triumph, I put together a copy of my 2005 introduction, links to three videos, and my favorite Billy Mills quote in this story:

I took this photo (below) at the 2017 US National Track and Field Championships in Sacramento. Paul Chelimo stands atop the victory stand as the winner of the men's 5,000m. Billy Mills is in the foreground having just presented the medalists with their honors.

Photo copyright Mark Cullen/, 2017, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Echoes of Silence

10/16/18 is the 50th anniversary of the famous black power protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the 200m victory stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. 

This is my story of the 2014 dedication of the 1968 training camp at Echo Summit, CA, as a California Historical Landmark - a story of that day, and of their times.

I’ve included an addendum to reflect recent scholarship on the role of the ‘third man on the podium,’ Australia’s fast-closing silver medalist, Peter Norman.

photo credit:
Peter Norman (silver), Tommie Smith (gold, world record), John Carlos (bronze)
Men’s 200m victory ceremony, 1968 Olympics, Mexico City

Echoes of Silence

by Mark Cullen

June 27, 2014

The 1968 US Men’s Olympic track and field team, arguably the greatest ever assembled, was honored today with the recognition of the Echo Summit, CA, US Men’s Track and Field Olympic Trials and high-altitude training site as a California Historical Landmark.

A crowd of several hundred gathered to celebrate the track and field legends who put their stamp on US social, cultural, and athletic history.

Members of the ’68 team in attendance were Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Ed Caruthers, Norm Tate, Reynaldo Brown, Larry Young, Tracy Smith, Mel Pender, Ed Burke, Geoff Vanderstock, and Bill Toomey. Smith and Carlos were the featured speakers.

Four world records were set during the Olympic Trials at the 7382’/2250m elevation of the Echo Summit site, chosen for its nearly identical elevation to that of Olympic host Mexico City.

The ceremony was at the same time touching and moving, high-spirited and celebratory. It had the look and feel of a family reunion. The eloquent remarks of the speakers were greeted with repeated and sustained standing ovations by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd.

Bob Burns, former Sacramento Bee reporter and the force behind the recognition of Echo Summit, said, “Few teams mirrored the social climate of their times as much as the ’68 Olympic track team did the 1960s.”

Jill Geer, USATF Chief Public Affairs Officer, cited “the importance of these people not only to sport but to society.” Geer pointed out that while the team is rightly noted for its 12 Olympic gold medalists, 20 of its team members have been inducted into the USATF Hall of Fame. “This team was so good that you didn’t have to win a gold medal to make it to the Hall of Fame.”

California state historian William Burg said that of over 1,000 California historic sites, Echo Summit is “the only one associated with both sports and civil rights history.”

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Pro-Tem Brooke Laine paid tribute to Walt Little, South Lake Tahoe’s Recreation Director in the 1950s and ‘60s, who was instrumental in convincing Bill Bowerman, Director of the US Olympic High Altitude Training Program, to accept the Echo Summit bid.

Little’s sons, Walt Jr. and Bill, in a stirring memorial, revealed that their family had lost their house as their father had used mortgage funds to help pay for athletes’ food.

Walt Little, Jr., said that their father was motivated “because of the Olympians and what they stood for. Dad carved his dream of a track and field arena out of the ice, the snow, and the trees. Echo Summit became the most beautiful track and field arena the world has ever seen.”

John Carlos lauded Little as “an icon in the world of athletics.”

“We are proud to have been a small part of your success,” Little, Jr., said to the assembled athletes. “Welcome home.”

My youth was marked by political violence: the assassination of the President when I was 11 and of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy when I was 16. Shortly before the 1968 Olympic Trials began, there were riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Upon the opening of the Olympics in Mexico City, protests there were brutally suppressed. The 1963 March on Washington was peaceful, but by 1968 there was a growing divide in both the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements over what kinds of action to take.

That discussion was reflected in the choices made by athletes at Echo Summit. To boycott the Olympics or not? African-American athletes were under heavy pressure to do so. But all made the same choice: to represent their country in Mexico City.

When Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medal winners in the Mexico City 200m, took the victory stand and raised their glove-covered fists in silent protest, I was awestruck at the peaceful eloquence of their statement.

They spoke to the whole world without uttering a single word.

The next day, the US Olympic Committee, under threat by the IOC of having the entire US team disqualified from the Olympics, dismissed Smith and Carlos from the team and they were forced to leave Mexico City immediately.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos have been united for life by their singular act as young men. They have traversed the territory from outcasts to heroes. Their “protest on the victory stand in Mexico City is one of the iconic images of the 1960s and the civil rights movement,” said Burns.

After their peaceful protest, Smith and Carlos paid a heavy personal price, and it was common to find them denounced in the US media for what were characterized as unpatriotic acts.

“Mr. Smith and I, in particular,” said Carlos, “we were vilified.”

Carlos noted the irony of the fact that he and Smith are now regarded as patriots and said, “All the individuals on this team are patriots… In many ways they tried to divide our team: these guys are civil rights activists, these guys are athletes. These guys are for a boycott, these guys are not for a boycott.”

“I’m just here to let you know now that we are one. We have been one all along.”

Smith and Carlos reflected on their days at Echo Summit. Both expressed gratitude and appreciation to the US Forest Service for their support of the ‘100 Days at Tahoe’ in 1968 as well as Friday’s ceremony.

“Look around and you see the goodness,” Smith said to the many youth foresters who staffed this event. “My heart is so full now.”

Smith remembered what it was like to take the turn from Highway 50 to the track at Echo Summit. “I hated to see that turn because that meant I had to train against him, and to train against John Carlos is no fun at all! You would have to run a world best just to stay in his shadow,” said Smith.

Smith noted the humor that came with practicing at a site that was carved out of a forest. When Bob Seagren came down from a 17’ pole vault clearance, Smith recalled, “I thought he had fallen out of a tree!” 

To say that they raised the bar for each other is to put it mildly. “Tommie and John had to run awfully fast to put themselves in a position to mount a protest that will outlast any record,” said Burns.

Carlos paid tribute to the US athletes who watched the Olympics from home.

'I have to remember those individuals who did not make the team… It’s just unfortunate that God put so many of us in a cluster and we could only pick three. But it didn’t stop us in terms of who we were as human beings... as civil libertarians... as people that were concerned about humanity.'

Smith reflected on his remaining time on this earth. “I hope that it’s longer than I feel sometimes… Sometimes you get up in the morning, you head for the door - and it never gets to you!”

Carlos concluded by noting that “the only downfall that we had here is the fact that we didn’t have a co-ed team. It was a shame that the women that represented this nation did not have a chance to experience the beauty, the love, the understanding, and bonding that we had.”

In 1968, their silent act of courage echoed around the world;  it reverberates still.

Today, it echoed among these trees, one last time.

photo credit:

Peter Norman Update

Peter Norman, Australian silver medalist, also paid dearly for his courage. He wore a badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights in support of Smith and Carlos, and for this he, too, was vilified in his home country. 

In spite of the fact that he met the 1972 100m and 200m qualifying marks repeatedly, was the 200m defending silver medalist and the Australian 200m record holder (and still is to this day), he was not named to Australia’s 1972 Olympic team. To Australia’s eternal shame, Norman was not invited to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It was in 2012 that the Australian Parliament finally apologized to Norman.

Too little too late; he had died in 2006.

Smith and Carlos, lifelong friends of Norman’s, served as pallbearers at his funeral.

Research credit for information about Peter Norman: Riccardo Gazzaniga.

Track and Field Autographs of a Lifetime

Program signed at the dedication of the Echo Summit, CA, site of the
1968 US Olympic High Altitude Training Center and Olympic Trials
June 27, 2014

Photo copyright 2014 Mark Cullen. All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2014  Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Un Moment Magique

Kevin Mayer
Smashes the Decathlon World Record
New Standard: 9126

copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved

Kevin Mayer after the long jump on Saturday.
He set a 7.80 (25-7.25) PB en route to his new world record
after fouling out of the event in the European Championships in August.
photo credit: Getty Images/IAAF
Kevin Mayer set a new decathlon world record of 9126 in Talence, France, today. He broke Ashton Eaton's 9045 - set in winning the 2015 Beijing World title - by 81 points. Mayer did so at the Decastar IAAF Combined Events Challenge in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative home-country crowd.

Mayer rode personal bests in 4 events - the 100m, pole vault, long jump, and javelin - to the record. In addition, he had set personal bests in the 110m hurdles, shot put, and discus earlier in the summer, and was a heavy favorite to win the European title until he fouled three times in the long jump. For the long jump to have been key to his world record was sweet revenge.

Indeed, his European Championships experience fueled his decision to compete in Talence, and his win and world record virtually assure him of a #1 world ranking this year.

He celebrated with a backflip in front of ecstatic French fans on his way to the imaginatively constructed podium, one which had room for every one of the competitors. Mayer was thoughtful and articulate in his comments to the thrilled crowd, and generous in his thanks to his family, competitors, meet officials, and spectators.

Then "Le Marseillaise" was played and the enormity of his accomplishment washed over him.

Together with Eliud Kipchoge's marathon world record this morning, this is one of the most memorable days in track and field history. 

World records in the marathon and decathlon, two signature events of the sport.

The stadium announcer aptly called Mayer's achievement "Un Moment Magique".

On this day - remarkably - it's deux.

Even the Pacers Couldn't Keep Up


Eliud Kipchoge Shatters Marathon World Record

copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved

Photo courtesy SCC Events/Berlin Marathon
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge took advantage of perfect running conditions to rewrite the marathon world record by 78 seconds in Berlin today. His 2:01:39 took down Dennis Kimetto's 2:02:57, run on the same course in 2014.

Even the pacesetters couldn't keep up with Kipchoge, as two of the three dropped out between 14 and 15 kilometers, far earlier than expected. Sammy Kitwara, the "special pacer" who holds a half marathon best of 58:48, was a particular surprise.

It appeared that Josephat Boit, the 2006 NCAA 10,000m champion, had saved the day by staying with Kipchoge as the lone pacer until 25.7 km, but as soon as Boit dropped out, Kipchoge sped up.

He won the race by almost 5 minutes as countrymen Amos Kipruto and former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang finished second and third in 2:06:23 and 2:06:48. It was a good day for Japan, too, as Shogo Nakamura led a 4-6-8 finish for his country.

Asked after the race if he had any goals left, Kipchoge, the 2016 Olympic Champion, quipped, "Yes, 2:02!" Kipchoge skipped the 2:02 range as he dropped his previous best of 2:03:05 by 86 seconds - an astounding 2 seconds per kilometer and 3 seconds per mile.

Earlier in the week, Kipchoge had been coy about a world record attempt, saying he wanted a personal best when his best was only 8 seconds off the world record. He also said that he would pace the 2:06 group, presumably sending race organizers into fits of apoplexy.

In a very fast and highly competitive women's race, Gladys Cherono (Ken) led three women under 2:19 to win in 2:18:11. Ruti Aga's (Eth) 2:18:34 set a personal best by over two minutes, while Ethiopian distance legend Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) was third in 2:18:55.

Just seconds after crossing the finish line, Kipchoge began posing for the assembled photographers. Kipchoge then moved from having pictures taken to turn to the crowd and start his victory celebration.

At the moment he turned, the clock read 2:02:57, the previous world record.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hearing Crickets

Olympic Champion Thomas Rohler Gives Continental Cup the Context It Needs

Copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/, All Rights Reserved
Thomas Rohler
Olympic, European, Continental Cup Gold Medalist
photo Getty Images/IAAF
A higher level of understanding of the scoring system led to a more enjoyable second day of Ostrava's Continental Cup.

A central goal for the 2022 Continental Cup is a more clearly understood format, one which doesn't take fans and observers a day to learn.

At the same time, preservation of the team concept - and one which doesn't have athletes competing against their own team members until the final round - is essential.

A format that's well-understood before the meet begins is not too much to ask; one which applies equally to all events is what's needed most.

The Continental Cup is a format in which team plays a central role in this otherwise individual sport, and in a way it usually does not at its upper echelons. The team aspect is well-understood at collegiate and school levels, especially with the NCAA in the United States.

Here the teams are Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Americas.

In a post-meet interview, Olympic, European, and Continental Cup javelin champion Thomas Rohler (Ger) gave an interesting critique of the format, but also saw it as an event which builds interest in athletics world wide.

The men's javelin serves as an interesting case study of the flaws of the format.

In the 3rd of 5 rounds, Rohler and local favorite, Czech Jakub Vadlejch, both members of the European team, went head-to-head for the opportunity to advance.

As Rohler says so well below, it is awkward to be forced to try to knock your teammate out of the competition so early - it goes against the team philosophy that is central to this competition. (If you're going head-to-head against a teammate in the 5th and final round, at least you're assuring your team 1st and 2nd place points.)

Surely this can be structured so that head-to-head competition between teammates comes only in the last round.

Rohler scored his final round win over Asia team member Cheng Chao-Tsun of Chinese Taipei, 87.07-81.81 (285-8 to 268-50).

"We knew that it was going to be close," said Rohler. "It was challenging. We all had just one throw to warm up in here due to TV times. I knew what I was capable of but I also knew that Jakub was always a strong contender. I tried to do a good throw but not a too risky throw which is actually what I did the whole competition because of this model.

"The core identity of javelin throwing is taking super high risk. We love this game of winning and losing being so close, and here with the new models you have to have performances from round to round to round so there's no room for risk, so I'm super happy with the 87m at the end with the precise throw and not too much risk.

"It's hard to understand from the outside," he continued. "This is what I really feel about it. It's a team event - Jakub and me we're good friends. We've been trying to be a team but the problem is the goal of the first three rounds is to kick out your team. That's weird.

"So I would love something about points better. If someone is really good in something, why not give them the bonus for being good at something. It's the same in school: if somebody's good at something he gets a Mark 1, if not, he's out. There's no soft rules, so I would look for something about point systems."

On the other hand, he says, this was a terrific spectator event.

"Being out there competing is fun. It's like everything is so quick. It's a little bit early (in the day), it's hard to concentrate out there.

"Yesterday I was a spectator and that's the other part of the game. I was sitting there. It was pure excitement. There was something going on all around the stadium. I was watching here, there - there was always action. If you can attract people with this end of season kind of format, why not? Why not?"

Why not, indeed.

Of his season, Rohler said, "2018 was really good to me. It was an exciting year. Every competition was really challenging due to my competitors.

"We had a year where you would travel to competitions and you never knew who was going to win. It was great for the spectators. It was also tough for the athletes because keeping the level up that high all season from May to September was challenging.

"I mean this is what our sports is about, this is why we became an athlete. This is why we are out here: we are getting ready to perform, but at the end we are only human, and I'm also happy that I was able to finish here in a really good manner."

I'll leave the last word to my colleague and good friend, Dave Hunter.

When the men's javelin came to round three and Jakub Vadlejch (84.76/278-1) took the lead over Rohler, the Czech spectators, who had only 4 entrants in the Cup, went wild.

However, Rohler's masterful response 86.39 (283-5) eliminated his Team Europe comrade, and the stadium went from raucous revelry to disappointed, deafening silence.

Said Hunter, "I'm hearing crickets."

Far better to hear crickets after the 5th round than the 3rd.