Our Olympic Chances
Gloomy? Not these two optimists ! They predict that Canada will make a good showing at the Berlin games
DESPITE the criers of gloom who say that this year’s Canadian Olympic team will not stand a chance when the big games are held in Berlin during the first week of August, the writers of this article are going to put themselves squarely out on a limb and declare that Canada has a chance to win five events in track and field, with a possibility of placing in half a dozen other events, to compile the best showing this country has ever made at the big international games. But, you say, you who follow your sport pages religiously: “Who and where are the men with which Canada is going to do all this? We should have been hearing about these world-beaters right along.” You go on to point to
the sensational performances of American track stars, who break a record or two every time they get into competition. Where, you ask, are the records set by Canadian track men to match those performances?
We’ll clean up that question before progressing to brass tacks on Canada’s Olympic chances. To start with, this is such a scattered country, its cities and towns so far apart, that athletes must do some tall travelling to compete in intercity meets. Travelling expenses are so high that there is seldom a Canadian meet in which the full track strength of the Dominion is represented. In the United States, three or four colleges and a dozen city clubs can be situated within a 100-mile radius, making plenty of competition and many chances to hold inexpensive track meets, thereby giving the boys opportunity to rise and shine frequently. There’s nothing like actual competition to bring out performance, and Canadian athletes don’t get this break.
When a meet is held on this side of the line, it’s liable to produce one or maybe two outstanding performances. And because there are not enough meets to make it worth while for most newspapers to hire specialists to cover them, a really first-rate performance is liable to be buried under a pile of mediocre ones. Admittedly a boy of the calibre of Percy Williams or of Phil Edwards and Alex Wilson will force himself into the headlines. But in their cases they had to beat the whole wide world before most Canadian sports editors caught on to the fact that they were first-raters.
Which leads directly to this year’s Olympic track team. Figures and past performance show that it’s going to be fighting for points with qualities never possessed by any other Canadian Olympic team. Nevertheless, so far as the average sports-page reader is concerned, the team is going to be the poorest ever sent out, for he’s been told little or nothing of what Canada’s new crop of athletes can really do. In fact, he’s been told that the team is going to do very badly. A few days ago a fairly big sports-page writer came out flatly and said the Canadian team wouldn’t be worth sending. His sneer was typical. The Dominion’s athletes have come along wonderfully in the last couple of years, but the fact has not yet reached the sports writers and fans.
Ciernen and Richardson
nPAKE, for instance, the cases of the four boys who are liable to win five events between them at the Olympic games this summer. First-string chance is big Hank Ciernen, the Toronto walker. He smashed the world’s record for the one-mile walk in New York during the winter season—a mark that had stood for years—and he holds world marks for nearly every intermediate distance up to 50,000 metres. Ciernen, of course, has been getting the publicity, for he comes from Toronto, where the writers are track wise. He can go to the games this summer and win
the 50,000 metres without raising a sweat; but, while nearly every sports fan knows that he’s good, few know how really good he is. The big Jewish boy is probably the greatest walker that ever pulled on a fiat-soled track shoe.
The next best bet to Ciernen is Sammy Richardson, a colored lad from Toronto who has yet to see his twentieth year. Canadians regard him as pretty fair—those that know of his work—but when they think of the broad jump their minds flash to Jesse Owens and Eulace Peacock, the highly publicized record smashers from the United States. They fail to add up all the facts in the case, which are as .follows:
During the indoor season Richardson went to Madisor Square Gardens in New York, and, jumping off a concrete floor with unspiked shoes, did 24 feet 11 inches in the broad leap. That was a new world’s indoor record. When he made that jump he was nearly a foot ahead of Ned Gourdin, the great American negro athlete who regularly jumps more than 25 feet outdoors. If indoor conditions took nearly a foot and a half off Gourdin’s jumping power, what did they do to young Richardson, who had never done much indoor jumping before? In other words, add a foot and a half to the jump Richardson did that night and you’ll have 26 feet, 5 inches, which will win handily at the games this summer. Consider, too, that Owens and Peacock will be asked to run heats, semi-finals and finals in the 100-yard dash, for they are too good at the sprints to be passed up as bets for Uncle Sam. Consider that they may be asked to run in the 200 metres. If they do that, they’ll come to the jumping pit to compete against a fresh, springy-legged lad from Toronto.-
Richardson has two strings to his Olympic bow, for he’s already conceded to be the favorite for the hop, step and jump. He’s already British Empire champ—won the title two years ago, before he got his strength—and he was up around the 50-foot mark when he did that. Fifty feet should win at the games, although those who know look for Richardson to do something over 51 feet. In 1928 and 1932, the Japs, with Mikio Oda and Chuhei Nambu, had this event sewn up, but this year Oda and Nambu will not be there. It will be all Richardson, unless there’s a tremendous upset.
Canada’s next two best bets aren’t so well known, but their performances give them a strong right to be considered potential first-placers. First there’s big Bob Dixon, a policeman from Vancouver. You’ll be hearing about him. He spent last winter in California, training under Dean Cromwell, who coached Charlie Paddock into becoming the world’s fastest human in his time. Cromwell is at the stage where he doesn’t fool around with novices, and the fact that he took Dixon in hand shows that the boy must have what it takes. One day last spring Dixon caught hold of a javelin, loped up to the take-off line, and threw it. When they measured, they found that it had landed 219 feet away. A Swede named Lindquist threw a javelin 237 feet
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for a world’s record, but the javelin is a funny event. It’s something like golf. When you attain such proficiency at golf that you can shoot consistent par, you’re liable to go out one fine day and tour the course in 66. Par for the javelin is anything over 200 feet, and the man who can master the form to toss it that far is liable to hit everything right one day and heave the spear pretty nearly out of the stadium. This Dixon has reached the par stage, he has the size and strength, and he has speed. Let him click with everything all at once, and Mr. Lindqvist may be sorrowfully regarding a broken record while a Canadian flag shoots to the top of the Olympic pole.
Edwards Still Good
FOR BEST bet number four, choose one of three men. Two are high jumpers— Jack Haley, of Trail, B.C., and Duncan McNaughton, who jolted the athletic world by winning the leap at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. The other is Phil Edwards, veteran quarter-miler, half-miler and miler, who placed for Canada in 1928 and 1932. Haley and McNaughton are good for six feet five inches at least, and should top that when pressed. The Americans jump around six feet eight, but haven’t produced that form in Olympics.
As for Edwards, they say, some of them, that he’s seen his best days. But they said that in 1932, and he fooled them to the extent of taking third in the 800 metresand second in the 1,500. the latter an event in which he had had little previous experience. In both cases he broke the world records, forcing the men ahead of him to break them still more. Edwards will be shooting for the 800 and the 1.500 again this year, with stress on the longer race.
Had he remained out of the shorter race at the last games or pointed his training for it, he would have won, in the opinion of the track-wise who saw him, for Luigi Beccalli, the Italian who won, only caught him in the stretch. Edwards still has the longest and smoothest stride in trackdom, and also he has a habit of reaching his top form at the Olympic games. Be he ever so sour the year before, the dusky British Guiana boy who adopted Canada as his athletic home always comes through at the big games. At the Berlin Olympics the world outside of Canada is conceding the 800 metre race either to Chuck Hornbostel of Indiana, or Ben Eastman of California. Edwards has trounced both. He’s only twenty-seven years old now ; and those who say he’s too old should look to the fact that D. G. A. Lowe won the 1928 Olympic 800 metres when he was twenty-eight and set a world’s record to boot.
nPIIAT JUST about cleans up Canada’s F first-place chances, but look now at the string of youngsters who are capable of counting points. In Olympic competition, the unofficial method of scoring is to award ten points for first place, five for second, four for third, three for fourth, two for fifth and one for sixth. (The official method counts first place only.)
There isn’t much chance in the 100 or 200 metres. Rule them out for a start, unless one of our mediocre sprinters can develop some part of his race in which he was weak last season. Jack Brown of Toronto, who is looked upon as the brightest prospect, can only do 94/5 seconds, which won’t be good enough to get him past the semi-final of the 100.
In the 200, it’s Frank Nicks of the Maritimes, who shades 214/5 seconds. He’ll be the best chance for Canada unless Bert Pearson, of Hamilton, regains the form that carried him along at 21 3/5 two years ago. These times aren’t good enough though. The Olympic 100 metres will probably be run a fifth of a second faster than Brown was doing last season, and the 200 should be won under 21 seconds.
In the 400 metres, things become definitely brighter. There’s no one with the promise of easy striding Jimmie Ball, the Winnipeg boy who lost by an eyelash in 1928, and no runner in Canada is moving as fast as was Alex Wilson in the Olympic year of 1932. These men were good for around 47 seconds flat. But there are a dozen boys in Canada who can beat 50 seconds.
Leading the parade of quarter-milers is probably Bill Fritz, the former Windsor, Ontario, lad. He has come close to 48 flat for the quarter, and has a sprinter’s speed plus stamina. He’s a faster man over a sprint distance than either Ball or Wilson, and under stress has a great chance of doing close to 47, which should place him.
Ray Lewis, the colored boy from Hamilton, who ran at the 1930 and 1934 Empire games and at the 1932 Olympics, rates a good chance too. During the winter he stepped out of his distance and won a 600-yard race in 1.15, which was real time when it is borne in mind that he was not running his real race. When he cuts down to his natural length, he should move along at a better than 48-second clip.
Then there’s Paul Bowlen, a Canadian who attended Oklahoma University last year. In Texas, in the spring, he won the State championship in 48 3/5 seconds, running against fleet boys from Rice Institute and other Texas colleges that are famous for their track men. That win meant something. Marshall Limon from Vancouver, and Joe Addison, also from the Coast, must be reckoned as Olympic point-counting material, too. They’re fast and they’re young.
Good Long-Distance Men
TN THE 800 metres, besides Edwards, F there is C. A. Conway of the University of Toronto—a long, lanky boy who was
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within a foot of Edwards in the intercollegiate title meet last fall. It was a drizzly day and the track was bad, but Conway ran close to 1.57, which would have meant 1.54 under good conditions. And 1.54, any trackster will tell you, spells a chance even at the Olympic games.
Counting Edwards as first-string man for the 1.500 metres, the second-string choice lies between Les Wade, of Montreal, and Art Clark, of Toronto. The 1.500 metre is about 110 yards short of a mile, and as the metric race is seldom run in this country, performance must be calculated on the mile basis. The world record for the event is a shade better than 4.07, but good, useful time is 4.12. Wade of Montreal can stretch his long legs for a 4.19 mile without much trouble. No one has ever pushed him to greater speed, but it was figured last year that he could touch 4.15. Add one year of improvement to that and he should get close to useful time. Clark is a barrel-chested youth who ran 4.15 at Hamilton during the winter. He took a forty-yard lead on the great Joe Mangan from Cornell and was fifteen yards up when he broke the tape. The thing about Clark is that he’s really a three-miler who was running out of his distance at Hamilton because his real race was not on the card.
Where he’ll really shine is in the 5,000 metres, which is a little more than three miles. Up to 1932 the Finns had a stranglehold on this race and the 10,000 metres, but when big Ralph Hills of Oregon
chased Lehtinen to within a foot at the tape, the rest of the world saw the way to beat Nurmi’s successors. Hills was a fast American miler who trained for the longer distance, losing none of his speed while he acquired endurance. Clark has all the speed Hill had, and he has staying power, too, and is looked upon to give Canada the first points in the longer races.
In the 10,000 metres Scotty Rankine and Lloyd Longman lead the parade, and they will also shoot for the marathon. Rankine, a stocky boy from Preston, Ont., was good enough to place fifth in the Olympic 10,000 of 1932, and when he gets that speed to work over the twenty-six mile route, to which his short, close stride suits him better, he has a chance of counting more points. Much can happen in twenty-six miles. It’s like the Grand National steeplechase in that respect; so tough that the favorites may be killed off. Longman may be held to the 10,000, but he has been running good fifteen-mile races, which should give him a great chance over the long distance. Most marathoners confine their training to around fifteen miles.
Forget World’s Records
IN ALL the other track and field events, Canada’s hopes are so slight as to be practically negligible. But let it be borne in mind that Canadians will go to the games with one big advantage. Few of them have reputations to defend, thus
they will not be under mental hazards. Also they will not know what their best performance is—how fast they can run, how far or high they can jump, how far they can throw things—while the seasoned record breakers from other nations will know that they are just about at the limit of their performances. The Canadians will be a young team. Athletes are brought along fast in this country. Whereas the great track performer on the continent and even in the United States is usually a matured man, the leading Canadian track men are little more than boys. They get into competition early and, unfortunately, many of them are burned out before they reach full pitch. But there is always the chance that one of these boys will find his strength and really go places for a short while. If that sudden flash comes during an Olympic year—and it is not unreasonable to expect that out of a dozen and a half athletes a few will acquire something along this line—then watch the Canadians.
You may argue that the men from other countries may get this sudden flash, too, but for your answer, look at their ages. They are matured, set in their performances and can’t be expected to do much, if any, better than they already have done. The youthful Canadians, who are close to top-notch marks now, need to improve by only a very little bit to be on even terms. Then trust the onset of youth to carry them the rest of the way.
Canadians have another advantage, too. While athletes of the United States, Finland, Germany, Britain and Japan have to go through rigorous trials just to get on the team—trials so hard because of the number of good men that the times done in them nearly equal and often exceed Olympic performances—the Canadian topnotchers are away ahead of the field at home and can make the team without too heavy an effort. The big strain of getting on the United States team takes so much out of a man that the Americans have been falling down in every set of games so far. The other nations suffer from this state of affairs to a lesser degree, but suffer just the same.
So it might be wise to forget all the world records that athletes of other countries have been creating in preOlympic competition. A shattering performance will only count points this year when the blue chips are down at the Olympic stadium in Berlin. When the blue chips are down, watch the Canadian track men.
For, according to present indications, this is going to be the Dominion’s big chance. There are, of course, the Hamilton Leanders, who will put practically the same team on the water as rowed United States and Italy to a standstill in 1932 and lost a one-foot decision. There’s the swimming brigade, headed by Bob and Irene Pirie, the latter now Mrs. Milton. There’s a group of boxers, the number one choice of which appears to be Sammie Luftspring, of Toronto. They may pick up points, but track men say that what they’ll get will be as a drop in a bucket compared with the spiked shoe artists’ tally.