Site: Rome, Italy
Dates: August 25 - September 11
Total Athletes: 5,348
This would be the Olympiad that would give birth to ultimately the world's most
beloved, most controversial and most recognized athlete, Cassius Clay, later to
take the name Muhammad Ali. The 18-year old Ali dominated the boxing arena like
no one ever has or most likely, ever will again. He easily took out 25-year-
old, three-time gold medal champion Zvigniew Pietrzkowski of Poland.
Clay's personality dominated the Games with his colorful poetry and
controversial speeches about the United States.
It was a disappointing performance for the American track and field team. Ray
Norton, the world record holder at 200 meters and a clear cut favorite to win
both the 100 and 200-meter races, finished a disappointing sixth respectively.
Norton was also a member of the 4 x 100 relay team that was disqualified for an
illegal baton exchange. The Americans did get a gold medal in the 400-meter
hurdles when Otis Davis accomplished the feat in a world record time of 44.9
Wilma Rudolph received international recognition for her heroic performance in
the Games. Rudolph, who had been a polio victim in her childhood years,
rebounded to win three gold medals in track and field.
More nations won gold medals in track and field than in any other Olympics.
Peter Snell and Murray Halberg of New Zealand won the 800 and 5,000 meters
respectively, Herb Elliott of Australia won the 1,500 meters, Armin Hary of
Germany captured the 100 meters, while Italy's Livio Berruti became the first
non-North American to win the 200 meters in Olympic history. Soviet Union's
Pyotr Bolotnikov won the gold in the 10,000 meters, Zdislaw Kryszkowiak of
Poland took the steeplechase, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first African
to win an Olympic gold medal, dosing so in bare feet.
Led by future NBA All-Stars and future Hall of Famers in Oscar Robertson, Jerry
Lucas and Jerry West, American dominated the basketball events, outscoring
their opponents by 43 points, 102-59.
The most interesting of all events was in the decathlon, which pitted friend
against friend, American Rafer Johnson versus C.K. Yang of Taiwan. The pair was
college teammates and best friends. They battled each other right to the end,
where on the final event of the competition (1,500 meter run), a mere 67 points
separated the two. With Johnson holding the lead, Yang new he would have to
beat his friend by at least 10 seconds to win the first ever gold for his
homeland. While Yang won the race (4:48 against 4:49), Johnson walked away with
Italians enjoyed their best ever Olympics, capturing 36 total medals, including
13 gold. Only the United States (71 total medals, 34 gold) and the Soviet Union
(103 total medals, 43 gold) enjoyed better success. The hosts had tremendous
success in most of the cycling events and sent six boxers to the finals for
medals. Giovanni Benvenuti earned the gold in the welterweight division while
teammate Franco De Piccoli earned a gold in the heavyweight division.