Otis Davis
University of Oregon Track and Field

Otis Davis honored at Oregon, 60 years after Olympic titles

Leave a comment

When Otis Davis visited his alma mater, the University of Oregon, over the weekend, the place he best recognized was his old dormitory.

Davis was a small-forward-sized guard on the basketball team in 1958, when he peered out of a third-floor window and saw two men doing laps at Hayward Field.

“To me, they looked slow. But they were distance runners, and they were running on pace,” Davis, 88, said by phone Saturday morning. “I said, I could beat those guys. That’s when I went to see Coach Bowerman.”

Davis, who served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War before enrolling at Oregon, approached the soon-to-become legendary coach — Bill Bowerman — and asked if he could join the track team.

“[Bowerman] said, ‘What do you do?'” Davis remembered. “I said, ‘What do you need?’ I’m so glad he didn’t say pole vault.”

Two years later, Davis won the Olympic 400m title in world-record time in Rome. Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of that final and an indelible photo finish between Davis and silver medalist Carl Kaufmann of Germany, who was given the same time of 44.9 seconds.

Davis was honored at Oregon in conjunction with the anniversary. He visited the remodeled Hayward Field, which includes a 10-story tower with individual floors honoring the track and field program’s eight Olympic champions. Davis was the first.

The exterior of the tower depicts five icons from the program’s history, one of which is Davis, along with Bowerman and an unnamed athlete.

“First of all, I said, who is that handsome guy?” Davis joked upon seeing his image, speaking in a video released by the Oregon track and field program. “I didn’t know I looked that good. I’m just glad they thought of me that way, putting me up there.”

Back in 1960, Davis said that he was still learning lane-running tactics when he arrived in the Italian capital for the Games. But one key thing he knew — when crossing the finish line, it’s the chest that counts and not one’s hands or head.

That’s why he knew he had beaten Kaufmann, whom he saw in his peripheral vision as they finished together. The German was hitting the line with his mouth.

“I was breaking the tape with my torso,” Davis said.

Otis Davis
University of Oregon Track and Field

Davis won another gold medal with the 4x400m relay, also in a world record (one of his two golds was later stolen). He retired in 1961.

“I didn’t figure I could do anything else, and I had to go to work,” he said. “They didn’t pay any money [for track] or anything.”

He later moved to New Jersey and worked as a teacher, guidance counselor and mentor.

Davis reflected while sitting inside the new Hayward Field about everything he overcame to become a champion on and off the track.

He was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., near the University of Alabama, which did not desegregate until after Davis enrolled at Oregon and won his Olympic gold medals.

“Psychologically, I’m telling you, I thought I was running away from all of that negative stuff,” Davis said. “People saying that you weren’t as good as they were because they didn’t even know you, because you might look different from them, which is totally absurd, and that’s what the problems we’re having now.

“I was working against all of that bitterness and the hatred and the second-class citizenship.”

When Davis first joined the Oregon track team, he was a high jumper. He also did the long jump and ran the 100 yards before settling into the 400m, where he was third at the 1960 Olympic Trials.

“They said, oh, he’s a natural,” Davis said, “but even a natural has to learn how to run.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Coco Gauff eliminated from French Open

Coco Gauff
Getty Images
1 Comment

PARIS (AP) — American teenager Coco Gauff’s French Open debut ended in the second round after she double-faulted 19 times in a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 loss to 159th-ranked qualifier Martina Trevisan.

Gauff double-faulted twice in the last game of the 2-hour, 11-minute match.

The 16-year-old Gauff has reached at least the third round at the other three major tournaments.

For Trevisan, a 26-year-old from Italy, this was her first victory in a Grand Slam match played to its conclusion.

She lost in the first round at the Australian Open this year in her first appearance at a major, then advanced Sunday at Roland Garros when her opponent, Camila Giorgi, stopped playing in the second set because of an injury.

Against Gauff, Trevisan kept yelling, “Yes!” and “Let’s go!” in Italian between points, then let out a high-pitched scream when the match ended.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier, Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the third round by beating American player Mackenzie McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.

The No. 2-seeded Spaniard is looking to win his record-extending 13th French Open title and equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 major titles overall.

Nadal improved his record at Roland Garros to 95-2 when he sealed victory on his first match point. He next faces 74th-ranked Stefano Travaglia of Italy.

Sebastian Korda has now beaten two tour veterans in his first French Open.

After eliminating Andreas Seppi in his opening main draw match, the 20-year-old American qualifier took out 21st-seeded John Isner in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win.

A former junior world No. 1 and winner of the boys title at the 2018 Australian Open — and the son of 1992 French Open finalist Petr Korda — Korda broke Isner’s normally dominant serve five times.

The No. 213-ranked Korda will next face either Mikhail Kukushkin or qualifier Pedro Martinez on Friday.

Also, No. 27-seeded American Taylor Fritz reached the third round by serving 16 aces in a straight-set victory over Radu Albot.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Figure skating’s Grand Prix Final postponed

Grand Prix Final
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international figure skating competition, will not take place as scheduled in December in Beijing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Skating Union announced Wednesday that the Final was postponed.

There were “a number of logistical points raised by potentially participating teams that meant that hosting the competitions on the scheduled dates (close to the end of year holidays and national championships) would have impacted on the number of participants, given the potential need to quarantine on returning to their home country,” according to the ISU.

The ISU is “evaluating the continuation” of the upcoming season and possible rescheduling of the competition in China, which doubles as a 2022 Beijing Olympic test event.

The Grand Prix Final, held every December after the six-event Grand Prix Series, is the biggest indicator of Olympic and world championships medal prospects.

The Grand Prix Series is still scheduled to start with Skate America in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

Fields have not been announced, but skaters are restricted to compete at the event in their home nation or in or near their training location.

The ISU also announced that the remaining World Cup short track speed skating stops in 2020 were postponed or canceled — Seoul and Beijing, both in December.

Previously, the first short track World Cups in November were canceled. All four of the long-track speed skating World Cups scheduled this fall were also canceled.

The next scheduled World Cup short- or long-track events are in February.

MORE: Alysa Liu grows on the ice and adds inches, too

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!