Sunday, October 15, 2006

Peter Norman is dead. Here's why you should care.

Everyone is familiar with the picture on the left. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, with their Black Power salutes, shook the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics and the reverberations were felt around the world.

Did you ever wonder who the white guy on the silver medal stand was? Just some spare dude who has been immortalized, Forrest Gump-like, by his proximity to history?

Um, not so much, buddy.

Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who won the silver medal in the Men's 200 meter and thus wound up on the stand with Smith and Carlos, was as big a part of the moment as his more famous fellow medalists.

Norman was in complete support of Smith and Carlos' act, and was a part of the planning before the medal ceremony. Due to his complicity in the event, Norman was completely ostracized back in Australia, never able to participate in the Australian Olympic program again. He wound up coaching track at a high school.

Norman stayed in contact with Smith and Carlos for the rest of his life. Smith kid's called him "Uncle Pete".

Norman died recently of a heart attack at the age of 64. Two of his pallbearers were John Carlos and Tommie Smith.


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