Here we go with this week’s featured clip…
Everyone has seen the famous 1968 image of Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their gloved fists in silent protest of racial and social injustice. But have you seen the actual race?
One thing in that image that is sometimes overlooked is the fact that the silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, is participating politically as well. You see that circular badge on the left side of his chest? That’s a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights, the (then) little-known protest group Tommie Smith and John Carlos were supporting. Norman borrowed the badge from an American athlete on the way out to the medal ceremony. He was heavily criticized back home for his solidarity with the two Americans, and he went on to lead a bit of a sad life, battling addictions and depression, getting gangrene, and suffering a fatal heart attack at the age of 64. Smith and Carlos were pall bearers at his funeral. The race you’ll see him run in this video is still – 41 years later – the Australian national record at the 200m distance.
Another interesting tidbit is that the race was more or less the end of each of these men’s high performance track career. None would go on to medal at any other major international championship. However, all three would experience minor professional sports careers. Tommie Smith caught on very briefly with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, making a single 41 yard reception. On that play he broke his collarbone and never played again. Peter Norman played here and there for an Aussie Rules Football Club. John Carlos had brief stints with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the CFL’s Argos and Alouettes.
Finally, Tommie Smith’s world record performance in this race was the first ratified 200m time under 20 seconds, and his record would go unbroken for 11 years. John Carlos had broken the 20s barrier a month earlier, but the result was not officially recognized as a world record due to a technicality about the spike configuration of his shoes.
So here’s the race. Enjoy!