This is the only photo that Google coughs up of C. T. White a distinguished athlete in Britain in the post war years. He represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games of 1948 & 1952 and was a national champion in the 880 yards. he was my father’s mentor and trainer. My dad was a national junior champion at 440 yards. “Uncle” Tom White was also my godfather. As a kid I accompanied the two men to meetings to either see them compete or to watch championship athletics.
As an inquisitive sports nut I loved the long car journeys, using the time to elicit stories of the great athletes the two had raced against or had seen race. They showed me how to understand athletics. How the runner to watch is not the one who leads at the first bend who is winning but the one who keeps his style, who paces his effort correctly. The Olympic Games of 1960 in Rome were the first ones I watched on TV with my dad & Tom. Their enthusiasm and, I hope, a little of their knowledge was passed to me as I listened to & ,sometimes, shared in the conversation.
These two fine young people are the double gold medal winner Wilma Rudolph and the hero of Italy Livio Berutti who had won the 200 metres gold in his home stadium. Wilma was the first African American to be the fastest woman alive. Tall and elegant she looks like a member of a girl group. She is rocking that individual casual look like she was Francoise Hardy or Jean Seberg. Livio wore sunglasses when he ran. He had more of a Mastroianni vibe at the stadium. Here he has that “Plein Soleil” Alain Delon, European scenester feel. Two young people at the peak of their athletic powers. A lovely picture.
The 1960 Olympics was the first time I was aware of Cassius Clay, a young,gauche, strong winner of the boxing heavyweight gold medal. He was fast tracked to a fight for the professional heavyweight title against Sonny Liston a man who seemed to intimidate his opponents into inaction. Clay defeated a generation of boxers before beating Liston twice. Along the way he showed himself to be a master boxer and a master of the new arts of promotion and propaganda in the new world wide television market. He was the first and the best to do this. The most famous man in the world for 30 years and the most significant athlete of the 20th century. Muhammed Ali has been an inspiration to many of us for the past 50 years.
Great Britain did not win many gold medals in the 1960 Games.This bespectacled clerk Don Thompson won gold in the 50 km walk, the longest event. In 1956 he had to withdraw with dehydration. This time he filled his bathroom with steam, put on his heavy tracksuit and turned the heating up. In temperatures up to 87 F and a hat made by his Mum he won in almost 4 and a half hours. Race walking will never look anything but plain silly but Don, “the Little Mouse” was our Olympic hero in Rome.