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Controversial Olympian Peter Norman honored, 50 years later

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SYDNEY (AP) — Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who stood on the podium alongside Tommie Smith and John Carlos when the two Americans gave their Black Power salutes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, has been awarded Australia’s highest Olympic award, 50 years after the event.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Saturday that it had awarded a posthumous Order of Merit to Norman, who died in 2006, in belated recognition of his role in one sport’s most powerful human rights protests.

“This is an overdue award there is no doubt,” AOC President John Coates said. “The respect for Peter and his actions is still enormous to this day.

“He believed in human rights throughout his life. We lost Peter in 2006 but we should never lose sight of his brave stand that day and further as a five-time national champion.”

Norman won the silver medal in the 200 meters at the Mexico City Games, and his time of 20.06 seconds remains an Australian national record. Smith set a then-world record of 19.83 seconds to win the gold medal while Carlos took the bronze, but it was their civil rights protest at the medal presentation that all three men will forever be linked together.

Smith and Carlos mounted the podium shoeless, representing black poverty in the United States, with each wearing a single black glove. When the “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, they bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air.

Norman, a white Australian physical education teacher, wore a human rights badge on his shirt in support of the two Americans. He also suggested the idea that Smith and Carlos each wear one glove because they only had one pair between them.

Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics because of their political protests and were subjected to death threats when they returned home.

Norman was never selected to represent Australia again, and his role in the protest was sometimes overlooked.

In 2005, a statue commemorating the protest was erected at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were students. Norman’s place in the statue was left vacant, although the Australian said he fully supported the decision to be left out of the monument.

When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos both travelled to Australia and were pallbearers at his funeral.

“He was a lone soldier in Australia,” Carlos said at the time. “Many people in Australia didn’t particularly understand. Why would that young white fella go over and stand with those black individuals?”

“Peter never flinched, he never turned his eye or his head,” Carlos said. “When I looked into his eyes, I saw nothing but love.”

The AOC has always denied punishing Norman, although the Australian federal government formally apologized to him in 2012 for failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics even though he had qualified.

“I’m absolutely certain from all the history I’ve read that we didn’t do the wrong thing by him,” Coates said. “But I absolutely think we’ve been negligent in not recognizing the role he played back then.”

The AOC, during its annual general meeting, also awarded Orders of Merit to four Olympians on Saturday — runners Cathy Freeman and Raelene Boyle and swimmers Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe.

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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.