Jump to content

Peter Norman Dies

Sir Rols

Recommended Posts

SYDNEY, Oct 3, 2006 (AFP) - Australian sprinter Peter Norman, who stood on the victory dias during the symbolic American 'black power salute' at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, died Tuesday aged 64.

Norman, who was the silver medallist in the 200 metres event splitting American gold and bronze medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos, died from a heart attack, Athletics Australia said.

Smith and Carlos both wore a black glove and bowed their heads on the podium while the US national anthem was played in a much-publicised protest against racial discrimination in the United States.

Norman wore a human rights badge on the podium in support of the two Americans.

The protest caused outrage in the Olympic movement, particularly in the US, and Smith and Carlos were immediately sent home from the Games.

``I was happy to identify with (Smith) and the principles he believed in,'' Norman said later of the incident.

``I didn't get off nearly as bad as the other guys did. People don't realise that for those two guys they sacrificed their lives for a cause they believed in. And it was peaceful and non-violent.

``Every emotion turned loose on them, there was vocal retaliation.''

Norman said he kept in touch with Smith and Carlos over the years and had lost the badge Carlos awarded him but he retained several copies of the famous newspaper picture of the 'salute.'

``To be involved in a very small way in history like that, it lives with you forever,'' Norman said. ``It's a bond.''

Norman's time of 20.06 seconds from that Olympic final remains as the Australian 200m record.

He also won five successive Australian 200m titles from 1966-70.

Athletics Australia chief executive Danny Corcoran said Norman had recently undergone a triple bypass operation and passed away Tuesday.



Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a very nice, touching gesture that both Smith and Carlos attended Norman's funeral:

MELBOURNE, Oct 9 AAP - Champion Australian sprinter Peter Norman was praised today as a man who never flinched from his courageous support of the black power protest at the 1968 Olympics.

His American rivals Tommie Smith and John Carlos were among the pallbearers today at the funeral of Norman who died last Tuesday of a heart attack at the age of 64.

Smith and Carlos were sent home from Mexico City in disgrace a day after bowing their heads and raising a black-gloved fist in protest at racial discrimination in their homeland while the Star-Spangled Banner was played during the 200m medal ceremony.

Norman, who had run the race of his life to claim the silver medal, wore a human rights badge in support of Smith and Carlos.

All three men were strongly criticised at the time for their stand.

``What we were standing for ... was far greater than any athletic feat ever,'' said bronze medallist Carlos today during Norman's funeral at Williamstown Town Hall.

``As we stand hear thinking about Peter Norman, think about the greatness of the man who said I stand with you - I don't stand before you, I don't stand behind you, but I'll stand with you.

``He was a lone soldier in Australia.

``Many people in Australia didn't particularly understand - why would that young white fella go over and stand with those black individuals?

``Peter was Australian and he was proud to be Australian, he was proud to run and represent Australia.

``But even greater than that he said I'm proud to represent the human race.

``I stand in awe of him.

'' ... Peter never flinched. He never turned his eye or turned his head. He never turned to walk away from that day.''

Hundreds of family members, friends and admirers packed Williamstown Town Hall to hear 1968 200m gold medallist Smith describe Australia's greatest-ever male Olympic sprinter as his brother.

A statue commemorating the protest - which has been ranked as one of the most iconic images of the 20th century - was erected recently at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were both students.

Norman supported the decision to have his position on the statue left vacant.

``He said I was merely a rock cast into deep still waters and the the ripples from that tiny rock I pray will flow to the shores ... of love so that everybody will know the humanitarian acts that we will all accept some day,'' said Smith.

USA Track and Field today proclaimed October 9, 2006 as Peter Norman Day as recognition of his stand in 1968.

Senior US athletics official Steve Simmons recalled inviting Norman and his second wife Jan to the 33rd birthday party of world 200m and 400m record holder Michael Johnson during the Sydney Olympics.

When Jan mentioned to Norman that perhaps they were out of place at a function involving some of the greatest names in US athletics, peerless 400m hurdler Ed Moses said it was one of the greatest honours of his life to meet the Australian who had stood alongside Smith and Carlos.

Norman's daughter Emma remembered her father today as a man who loved the limelight.

``He was the first person we'd call in a crisis and he never judged us because he'd always done worse,'' said a tearful Emma.

``He could run 200 metres in 20 seconds and if you locked your keys in the car he could break in in about 30.''

Norman's time of 20.06 seconds from the Mexico City Olympics final still stands as the Australian 200m record.

Norman is survived by his second wife Jan and their daughters Belinda and Emma, his first wife Ruth and their children Gary, Sandra and Janita, and his mother Thelma.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great stories. I always wondered when I saw the images of the Black Power salute who the other guy was. Now I know.

It was one of the most iconic sporting and political images of the last century. Peter Norman could easily have stood by and watched, but what he did in standing with Tommie Smith and John Carlos was far greater than any athletic achievement. A true Olympian.

Link to post
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...