He ran with a silky smooth stride. He grooved around curves with grace. And he won the 200 meter finals at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome….wearing sunglasses.
Livio Berruti, who hails from Torino, Italy, was the most celebrated of the celebrity in Rome at that time, the essence of cool that hot Italian summer.
American Ken Norton was favored to win the 200 meters, but he faded quickly as Berrutti raced to a world record time of 20.5 seconds to win gold. David Maraniss described in his book, Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, how Berruti felt as he emerged victorious. “He approached the finish line knowing that he still held the lead, and threw himself at it, sprawling on the dark red track, overcome ‘with that kind of liberation you feel when you’ve faced a difficult test and managed to pass it.'”
Amidst continuous cheers of “Ber-ru-ti! Ber-ru-ti! Ber-ru-ti!”, his fate as an Italian sports legend was sealed.
As for the shades, Maraniss explains that Berrutti was shortsighted, to the point that he could not see other runners or the finish line without them. So he wore prescription glasses that tinted in the sunlight, wearing the same pair whether competing or sitting at home.
In Tokyo, Berrutti finished fourth in the 200 meter race. And immediately went up to the Olympic champion, Henry Carr, and congratulated him a race run well.
Here is great footage from Berruti’s trial, semi-final and final races in the 1960 Games.