Here is my list of books penned by Olympians from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, continued from Part 1 here.

Inside Five Ring Circus Cover

Inside the Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics, is written by Ollan Cassell, a gold medal member of the 4×400 US men’s track team in Tokyo, and long-time executive within the AAU, the powerful governing body of amateur sports through much of the 20th century. Cassel’s book is less about his track career and more about the fascinating history of amateur athletics in the United States. He was front and center in the debate and transition of the professionalization of sports in America.

in_the_long_run.jpg

In The Long Run – US 5000-Meter Olympic Gold Medalist Tokyo 1964 is an autobiography by the first and only American to win the 5,000 meter finals in an Olympics, Bob Schul. Co-written by Laura Rentz Krause, In the Long Run tells the story from his childhood growing up in West Milton, Ohio, to his torturous training sessions under legendary coach Mihaly Igloi in California, to meeting high expectations of victory in Tokyo.

Mary Mary cover

Mary Mary – An Autobiography of an Olympic Champion is by British long jump champion, Mary Rand. She was definitely one of the brightest stars at the 1964 Olympics. While expected to win gold in Rome, but didn’t, Rand redeemed herself in Tokyo, not only breaking the world record and winning gold in the long jump, but also taking silver in the pentathlon and bronze in the 4×100-meter women’s relay. An electrifying presence in person, Rand’s charm oozes through the pages as well.

No Bugles No Drums

No Bugles No Drums is an eloquent look of double middle-distance gold medalist, Peter Snell, the incredible double champion of the men’s 800 and 1500-meter middle-distance races at the ’64 Games. Written with Garth Gilmour, No Bugles No Drums is the appropriate title for a smart but understated athlete, who writes with wit and understated insight.

Brightwell Golden Girl vocer

Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl is by Robbie Brightwell, the captain of the Great Britain’s track team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It is the story not only of his journey to a fantastic silver medal anchoring the 4×400 relay team, but also of the journey of his wife, Ann Packer, who won gold in the 1500 and silver in the 400 meters (losing only to Betty Cuthbert). This is a story of self-discovery and leadership told with intelligence and charm.

Run Bullet Run cover

Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes is the incredible story of the career of Bob Hayes, one of only two people to win both a gold medal and a Super Bowl championship. Co-written with Robert Pack, Run, Bullet, Run is the story of a young black American whose rise to Olympic gold and stardom as a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was as stunning as his fall due to drugs and alcohol.

wokini

Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding is by Billy Mills and co-written by novelist, Nicholas Sparks. Mills was one of the biggest stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unlike Schul, who was pre-determined by the press to win the 5,000 meters, Mills was practically unapproached by the press, who hardly knew him. Mills went on to win the 10,000 meter finals in Tokyo in an incredible come-from-behind victory, inspiring Team America and millions around the world. Mills has gone on to great works in helping young Native American Indians in the United States, and wrote this inspirational parable of self discovery, Wokini.

See the other recommended books in Part 1.

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French fencers Jean-Claude Magnan and Cathérine Rousselet-Ceretti on bicycles_Bi to Chikara
French fencers Jean-Claude Magnan and Cathérine Rousselet-Ceretti on bicycles, from the book Bi to Chikara

The bicycles of the Olympic Village were the invaluable commodity of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Olympians scrambled to find or keep a bicycle so that they were ensured of easy transport around the vast grounds of the Village.

But bicycles, even in the hands of the best athletes in the world, were sometimes considered an accident waiting to happen.

American gymnast, Makoto Sakamoto told me of one night in an area that was so dark, he ended up “running (my bicycle) into a three-foot pond”. Gold medalist distance runner, Bob Schul, explained in his autobiography, In the Long Run, that the bicycles were not exactly one size fit all, which could be dangerous to the big athletes.

The bikes didn’t last long, however, as the rate of breakdowns was very high. On one occasion we witnessed a comical sight involving just such a “breakdown!” A Russian weight lifter, who weighed close to 300 pounds, attempted to ride a bike. To top it off he placed his friend on this shoulders. Almost immediately the bike broke in two pieces with this huge man and his friend tangled among the works. Fortunately no one was hurt, but this was one bicycle that would not be ridden again during the Olympiad.

Dawn Fraser on a bicycle_The Olympic CEntury XVIII Olympiad
Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser on a bicycle, from the book The Olympic Century XVIII Olympiad

According to an October 19, 1964 UPI report, US swimmers were banned from using the bicycles for fear of injury.

None of the athletes cycling about the Olympic Village – on the more than 700 available bicycles – are U.S. swimmers. Bicycle riding, the most popular form of transportation among Olympic sportsmen and women, is strictly forbidden to American swimmers – at least until after they have competed in the games. The no bicycling edict came from the team’s swimming coaches, who claim that bicycling tightens up a swimmer’s muscles instead of relaxing them for competition.

I doubt the US swimmers heeded that ban. But marathon legend, Abebe Akila, may have wished his coach banned him from bicycles. In a biography about Bikila, the barefoot champion of the 1960 Rome Olympics, who went on to repeat his golden performance at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, would get around on the bicycles like everyone else. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a very experienced cyclist. Here’s how Tim Judah explained, in his book, Bikila – Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian, how a bicycle caused the marathoner more grief than he needed.

Abebe Bikila on a bicycle_Bi to Chikara
Marathoner Abebe Bikila on a bicycle, from the book Bi to Chikara

Bikila, not used to riding one, tried one out and the experience almost ended in disaster. On the second day Bikila came in with a bandaged hand. He had fallen while bicycling. He had gone to the hospital where he had been spotted by some journalists. Terrified, Bikila had not dared ask the hospital to take care of his knee, which was more seriously hurt, and so he had hidden the injury until he could get Niskanen (his coach) to look at it.

In the meantime, vastly exaggerated reports of Bikila’s condition were flashed around the world, prompting a telegram from Addis Ababa, expressing concern, Niskanen wrote. “They had made a mountain out of a molehill. There was no more cycling for Abebe. It was bad enough getting over his appendix operation.” In the days that followed there was no let up in the pressure. Bikila was a world sporting celebrity and Niskanen had to fight hard to give him space.

Olympic Village Theater and Bicycles_Asahi Graf_23Oct
Olympic Village Theater and Bicycles, from the October 23, 1964 edition of the magazine Asahi Graf

The Olympic Village of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics really felt like a community. After all, it was, up to 1964, the gated neighborhood for US military families, a symbol of the continued American military presence in Japan.

Without a doubt, one of the lasting memories of the Olympians’ positive experience of the 1964 Summer Games was the availability of bicycles throughout the Olympic Village. The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee had bicycles donated by Marukin Bicycle Manufacturing and Matsushita Electric Industrial and had them placed in all parts of the Village. The concept was if you saw an unattended bicycle, you could get on it and ride it anywhere in the Village. When you got off it and parked it, the bicycle was then available to any other person in the Village.

Members of the French Olympic Team on bicycles_Bi to Chikara
Members of the French Olympic Team on bicycles, from the book, Bi to Chikara

Olympian rower, Ted Nash, expressed his appreciation of the bicycles and Japanese hospitality in this post.

The reception was spectacular, the cleanliness and orderly fashion amazed us, the thoughtfulness of our hosts – the Japanese – was a constant surprise – They provided 750 new bicycles within the Olympic Village grounds on a “no-owner” basis. We simply found a vacant bike, rode it anywhere, left it there, and it was fair-game for anyone else – the seats never had a chance to cool off. Bus schedules, tours, eating and training facilities, were excellent with no measure spared to make the athletes feel at home.

Olympians rode the bicycles to the bus stops, to the dining areas, to the movie theaters and to their dorms. The books and magazines of the time were filled with pictures of Olympians smiling and socializing in the Village on those bicycles. One Olympian, who will remain anonymous, told me that it was their escape vehicles when they pinched the Turkish flag from that country’s living quarters.

Soren Svejstrup_bicycles
Members of the Danish team, from the collection of diver Søren Svejstrup.

The report by the Olympic Committee stated that there were actually over 1,000 bicycles allocated to the Olympic Village, but whether there were 750 or 1,000, there were simply not enough. An American gymnast told me that he often ran to open bicycles to make sure no one beat him to them. 5,000 meter Olympic champion, Bob Schul, wrote in his autobiography, In the Long Run, that the bicycles were so valuable that “they’d be hidden in bushes and other secret places, waiting on the athlete who had placed them in hiding the night before. We were among the few who arose so early that there were always a few within reach.”

Canadian field hockey player, Victor Warren validated that by telling me that “when our goalkeeper had to pack up our stuff we made it a point to take a bicycle and hide it in our dorm room so we could transport our stuff to the bus easily.”

The master of the psych out, four-time gold medalist Don Schollander, explained that one could get so worked up about whether a bicycle would be available, that he had to very consciously tell himself not to be bothered if he could not find a bicycle, as he explained in his autobiography, Deep Water.

I made up my mind not to let anything upset me. the Japanese had provided bicycles to help us get around the Village, but there were never enough. If I couldn’t find a bicycle, I would wait or walk. I was careful to take the right bus to training, so that I wouldn’t be too late and have to hurry, or too early and have to hang around. If I couldn’t get into the pool exactly when I wanted to, I told myself it didn’t matter. Whatever happened – that was fine with me. it rained a lot that week; if I got caught in a rainstorm, it was no big thing.

In the end, in so many of my interviews with 1964 Olympians, one of the most enduring memories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were the Village bicycles.

Ada Kok on bicycle in Tokyo Olympic Village
Members of the Dutch team.
Heatley Bikila Tsuburaya on medal stand 1964
Basil Heately, Abebe Bikila and Kokichi Tsuburaya on the medal stand

Abebe Bikila strolled into the National Stadium like he owned it. And he did. The lithe Ethiopian, a member of the Imperial Bodyguard of his nation, was about to meet expectations at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics – to become the first person to win marathons in two consecutive Olympics.

The first time Bikila did so, he was an unknown, and made headlines by running barefoot on the roads of Rome in 1960 to win marathon gold. When he crossed the finish line in Tokyo, amazingly over 4 minutes earlier than the second place finisher, the audience marveled at how fresh Bikila was – so fresh that he did calisthenics and jogged in place as if he were readying for the start of a marathon.

In other words, the actual competition in the marathon was for second. And in the race for second, Japan was ready to explode in celebration.

Like the Brits, with Brian Kilby and Basil Heatley, the Australian Ron Clarke, the other Ethiopian Demissie Wolde, as well as Americans Billy Mills and Buddy Edelen, the Japanese had a trio of strong marathoners in the competition, Toru Terasawa, Kenji Kimihara and Kokichi Tsuburaya.

As explained in this detailed article, at the 10K mark of the 42K race, Clarke was setting a pretty fast pace at 30:14, with Jim Hogan of Ireland and Bikila following. Around the 20k mark, Bikila took the lead and never looked back. The race for 2nd was on, with Clarke and Hogan about 5 seconds behind Bikila, and a second pack including Wolde, Tsuburaya, Jozsef Suto of Hungary and Antonio Ambu of Italy.

Kokichi_Tsuburaya 1964_adoring fans

With about 7 kilometers to go, Bikila, Hogan, Tsuburaya and Suto were in the lead, with Heatley rising to fifth. Amazingly, Hogan dropped out of the marathon despite being in position for a silver medal, leaving the Japanese from the self defense forces, Tsuburaya in second. Heatley and Kilby were coming on, passing Suto with only 2 kilometers to go.

Heatley was advancing and could envision a bronze-medal finish, but didn’t think he could pass Tsuburaya. “I didn’t expect to catch him,” Heatley recalls, “but he was a target.”

Bikila entered the National Stadium triumphantly, winning with an ease that both shocked and surprised the crowd. But the crowd went wild a few minutes later when Tsuburaya entered the stadium. At their home Olympics, Japan had medaled in wrestling, judo, boxing, weightlifting, gymnastics and swimming among others, but not in track and field. Tsuburaya was about to change that, in front of the biggest crowd possible.

And yet, soon after Tusburaya entered the stadium, so too did Heatley, only about 10 meters behind. Just before the final curve of the stadium’s cinder track, Heatley turned on the jets and sprinted by Tsuburaya. For a 2nd place battle that took over 2 hours and 16 minutes, Tsuburaya lost his chance for silver by four seconds.

Writer, Robert Whiting, was watching this match on the television, confident that Tsuburaya would make Japan proud with a silver medal only to see that expectation burst before the eyes of an entire nation, as he explained in this article.

The cheering for Tsuburaya was building to a crescendo when suddenly Great Britain’s Basil Heatley came into view and proceeded to put on one of Olympic track and field’s great all-time spurts. He steadily closed the gap in the last 100 meters, passing Tsuburaya shortly before the wire, turning the wild cheering in the coffee shop, and in the stadium, and no doubt in the rest of Japan, into one huge collective groan.

Bob Schul, who three days earlier, became the first American to win gold in the 5,000 meter race, watched the end of the marathon with some dismay.

Abebe entered the stadium to great applause. He finished and went into the infield and started doing exercises. Finally the second guy, Tsuburaya came, and the crowd roared. But so did Heathley of England. Sharon asked if Tsuburaya could hold on to 2nd place. I said I didn’t think so. Heatley caught him about 150 meters before the finish. And the crowd became very quiet. The Japanese guy was going to get third. And when he did finish, the stadium did erupt. And that was the only medal they won in track and field.

 

Heatley on the heels of Tsuburaya
Heatley hot on the heels of Tsuburaya

 

When Kokichi Tsuburaya was a boy in elementary school, he competed in an event common throughout Japan – a sports day, when children compete against each other in a variety of activities, like foot races. After one such race, Koshichi Tsuburaya, the young runner’s father, chewed him out for looking behind him during the race. “Why are you looking back during the race. Looking back is a bad thing. If you believe in yourself, you don’t need to do so.”

Many years later, with over 70,000 people screaming in the showcase event of the Olympics, people were yelling, “Tsuburaya, a runner is behind you! Look back! Look back! He’s close!” Was Tsuburaya recalling that childhood scolding from his father? Would it have made a difference if he did?

While Tsuburaya’s very public loss of the silver medal must have been the source of pain, not only for Tsuburaya, but also of the nation. But in the end, there were no hard feelings. After all, Tsuburaya won Japan’s only medal in Athletics, a bronze in the marathon, an achievement beyond the nation’s initial expectations. Writer Hitomi Yamaguchi wrote of this pain and pride in a 1964 article.

Tsuburaya tried so very hard. And his efforts resulted in the raising of the Japanese flag in the National Stadium. My chest hurt. I applauded so much I didn’t take any notes. Since the start of the Olympic Games, our national flag had not risen once in the National Stadium. At this last event, we were about to have a record of no medals in track and field. Kon Ishikawa’s film cameras were rolling, and newspaper reporters were watching. People were waiting and hoping. So when Tsubaraya crossed the finish line, we felt so fortunate! When I saw the Japanese flag raised freely into the air, it felt fantastic. Tsuburaya, thank you.

You can watch the dramatic second-place finish to the Tokyo Olympics marathon at the 5:38 mark of this video:

Note: Special thanks to my researcher, Marija Linartaite, for finding and translating the last quote.

new-years-resolutions

  • “My cousin lost 10 kilos in three months! I’m going to lose 20 kilos this year.”
  • “My father passed away from emphysema at the age of 63. For the sake of my family, I will quit smoking this year.”
  • “I want to go to and win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!”

Big goals can inspire. And we see the new year as a chance to wipe the slate of our past efforts clean, and commit to significant resolutions with vigor and determination. But even if initially inspired by them, big goals can seem overwhelming, and thus can demotivate to the point of surrender.

Very often, the key to achieving a big goal is to break it down into smaller, more concrete, more manageable goals.

You don’t develop a killer serve by just practicing your serve 100 times a day. You break down the mechanics of the serve and practice with a conscious effort to ensure the key parts of the serve are repeated accurately. That means you need to understand what the key components of a good serve are, and ideally you need to have someone observe you so you can get immediate feedback. Over time you will likely see great results.

Bob Schul didn’t become America’s first Olympic gold medal winner in the 5,000 meters by just running every day. He followed the disciplinary approach of coach Mihaly Igloi, who taught him that the interval approach. Schul’s typical day was filled with mini-goals of – for example, ten 200-meter sprints, followed by a 400-meter easy jog, followed by eight 100-meter sprints, then twelve 160-meter runs. Schul didn’t become an Olympian overnight, but he worked on his mini goals every day, and actually, during his training, every minute.

Here’s a great article from Forbes Magazine called “Why Thinking Small is The Secret to Big Success“. It focuses on this idea of chunking, and that you don’t achieve your big goals because “you’re not thinking small enough.”

  1. Decide what you want
  2. Proclaim your dream to your friends and family
  3. Set a deadline
  4. Break down the goal into smaller steps
  5. Identify someone who’s accomplished a similar goal and model their attitude and belief system
  6. Believe it’s possible
  7. Take massive action
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 every day

For so many of us, when we set New Year’s Resolutions, or aspire to some great goal, we do the first three steps. But we often don’t take a project management attitude to our dreams. While we may imagine what the final, wonderful end state looks like, we don’t break it down into mini-goals, identify the key actions that other actions are dependent on, and set milestone deadlines. We don’t because that level of thinking and planning is likely a muscle not often exercised. But exercise it we must. Find a friend or a coach to help you think it through.

Just remember what Al Pacino said in the locker room, when he gave his inspirational pep talk to a demoralized American football team in the 1999 Oliver Stone film, Any Given Sunday. He told the team that coming back to win would be monumental, but that they shouldn’t focus on the big goal of trying to win. They should instead stay in the moment, focus on the inches in front of them. Football, like life, he told them, is about moving forward, inch by inch.

You find out life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half step too late or too early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.

logos-1964-and-2020

Tokyo2020: It’s still three-and-a-half years away! It’s only three-and-a-half years away!

bob-schul-at-the-bob-schul-invitational
2016 Bob Schul Invitational

When Bob Schul, a member of the US Air Force met Hungarian coach, Mihaly Igloi for the first time, Schul was familiar with Igloi’s challenging training regimen. But he was not prepared for it. Schul was on a limited two-week assignment in San Jose so he could train under Igloi. In order to maximize his time, Schul and Igloi decided they would do two a days, training in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The first day, Schul was assigned to Laszlo Tabori, a world recorder holder in the 1500, and like Igloi, a Hungarian who defected after the Soviet Union ended a bloody rebellion by sending troops into Hungary. Thus Tabori was the man who introduced Schul to a level of interval training that for many would be considered punishing. Tabori, who resented having to babysit a newcomer, never told Schul how far they were going to run or how many times, which left Schul unclear when to save and use up energy.

At the end of his first morning session under Igloi’s training techniques, Schul returned to the house he was staying at and collapsed on the floor. Another runner staying at the house was Joe Douglas, who would go on to coach Carl Lewis at the Santa Monica Track Club. According to Schul, in his autobiography, In The Long Run, Douglas was heading out the door.

“Igloi a little rough on you this morning?” he asked between mouthfuls of cereal.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” I wearily answered. “Will it be this hard every day?”

Joe looked up from the table and a smile crossed his face. “No,” he said. “Somedays will be much harder.” With that he took his last bite and headed out the door.

Schul of course got through those two weeks. And a few months later, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that Igloi had moved to the University of Southern California, which was now only an hour away by car, not six. This allowed Schul, as well as Max Truex (Schul’s commanding officer and Rome Olympian) to embark on an even more grueling work/train schedule. As he told me, he “had never trained that hard.”

mihaly-igloi
Mihaly Igloi

Twice a day, and once on Sunday. 5:30 in the morning. Work out for an hour. All speed work. Repeat 100s. repeat 150s. Lots of sprinting. Then we’d go back to the base. Work Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Go back to the base. We’d stay there Wednesday night. All day Thursday. Friday night through Monday morning. And come back the next night, and return Wednesday morning. And leave to the university Saturday morning.

But for these three years, from the time Schul first met Igloi in May, 1961, to October 1964, Schul employed interval training to get him to world-class levels. In fact, entering the Tokyo Olympics, Bob Schul was so dominant that it was a foregone conclusion in the press that he was going to be the first American to win the 5,000 meters.

But victory and glory would be built on the punishing interval techniques developed and refined by Igloi. And Schul would go on to coach “good athletes who ran well in college and within a short time, six months to a year, had them running at a national level.” He did so using Igloi’s techniques. What would it be like to train under the Schul-Igloi interval training methodology? Below is an excerpt from Schul’s self-published book, “A Training Manual: A Method for Runners From Beginners to Olympic Contenders”, with an example of what a “hard day” of training might look like.

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each

 

6 X 400 meters at specific times depending on the speed of the runner (around 63-64 seconds for faster runners, or 72-82 seconds for slower runners); 180 meter walk between

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each

 

For better athletes:

An additional 8 X 160 meters (fresh); 40-meter walk between

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each
  • 9 X 200 meters (2 fresh, 1 good buildup); 50-meter walk between
  • 10 X 100 meter shakeup (very easy, shaking the arms loose to relax the body)

According to Schul, this workout is over 12 miles of actual running and more importantly the heart rate is elevated for about two and a half hours.

Me, I’d rather write about it.

 

Igloi Glossary:

  • “Fresh”: relaxed state, no or little tension in the shoulders
  • “Good”: shoulders are under tension, while rest of the body is relaxed
  • “Hard”: 7/8 speed and under control

bob-schul-on-the-podium

Tragedies in our lives often change our lives, for the better or for the worse.

Olympian great, Bob Schul, at the age of 22 figured his track career was done. His grandfather, whom he adored, had been killed in a car accident. Schul went back to school at Miami University of Ohio near his hometown of West Milton, but could not muster the energy to study and get passing grades, and ended up dropping out.

Schul decided it was time to grow up, so he joined the United States Air Force where he studied electronics. Based in Detroit, Michigan, where the lack of track competitions and cold weather gave little incentive for training, Schul wrote in his autobiography, In the Long Run, that “I figured my running career was finished before it had ever begun.”

But only a few months after his time in the cold at Selfridge Air Force Base, his heart warmed when he saw a notice on a bulletin board asking for applicants to a special Air Force track team that, if good enough, could go to the Olympics in Rome. Schul applied, and after anxious weeks of waiting, he got the word that he was in. It was off to sunny and warm California, where he would be based at Oxnard Air Force Base not far north of LA.

mihaly-igloi-2
Mihaly Igloi

Mihaly Igloi, was a very good miler for Hungary, and was on the Hungarian team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. While not a champion miler, he eventually became an effective track coach for the Hungarian army track club, Honved Budapest. In the 1950s, Igloi’s runners were commonly breaking world records in various middle and long distance categories, and were heavily favored to break more records and win medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

But Igloi’s tragedy was a national tragedy. Over a decade prior to the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia and subsequent Soviet invasion in 1968, there was the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a time when Hungarians revolted against their government and the Soviet puppet policies they lived under. Student protests led to police retaliation, which led to the forming of resistance militia across the country, which led to the Soviet leadership decision to crush the rebellion, which they did. On November 4, 1956, only 18 days prior to the start of the Melbourne Olympics, Soviet forces poured into Budapest. Over 2,500 Hungarians were killed, and over 200,000 fled their homeland.

Igloi and his track team were in Budapest, and saw the chaos of the Soviet invasion, but were fortunate to leave the country and arrive in Melbourne. Understandably, the Hungarians performed poorly at the Games. After the competition, Igloi, and one of his top runners, Laszlo Tabori, made the fateful decision to forgo their return to Hungary and defect to the United States.

laszlo-tabori
Laszlo Tabori

With support from Sports Illustrated, Igloi and Tabori settled into life in the US, finding work in indoor track and meeting promoters, coaches and runners, according to this article in Runners World. Igloi eventually settled into a role as coach at San Joe State University in Northern California.

Max Truex, who finished sixth in the 10,000 meters race at the 1960 Rome Olympics, was in the Air Force. He had been trained by Igloi, who helped Truex to the best finish ever by an American in the 10K. And he happened to be Bob Schul’s commanding officer at Oxnard. Truex recommended that Schul get coached by Igloi. Truex arranged for temporary duty for Airman Schul in San Jose where Igloi was based at the time, so that Schul could train under Igloi in May, 1961.

And thus began a wonderful relationship, one that eventually resulted in Olympic gold.

max-truex
Track & Field: US-Poland Meet: USA Max Truex in action, crossing finish line to win 5000M race vs Poland at 10th-Anniversary Stadium. Warsaw, Poland 7/30/1961 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: S441 )

Bob Schul

bob-schul-present-day

It’s not an uncommon story. The shy or sickly child finds his way through sport. Bob Schul was not born with gregarious social graces, and tended to stick to himself. In the sixth grade, one of his few social interactions was playing tag with his fellow students, where he learned something important. “I found out I could get away and they couldn’t catch me.”

It was a childhood insight that would lead Schul to distance running, to the track team at Miami  University of Ohio, a tutorship under Mihaly Igloi, the legendary track coach from Hungary, and gold medal glory at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Schul would become the first and only American to win the 5,000-meter race in Olympic history.

But first, Schul had to discover himself.

He knew he was a fast runner. But as he developed as an athlete, he and his coaches also learned he was tough, as well as toughminded. Schul addressed students his alma mater in 2014, and told them a couple of stories from his youth that spoke to a powerful internal drive.

In high school, Schul joined the football team – that’s American football, a sport in which you wear heavy padding and helmets and you launch yourself as projectiles into each other. As Schul told me, he was 155 cm tall and weighed only 59 kilos, and his teammates were 70 to 90 kilos heavy. “I had no business playing football.” He said that his high school was small, but his football team was very good, league champs in the previous five or so years.

There he was in a team practice, lined up in a Statue of Liberty, as a right end. The ball was snapped, he came off the line and back to the quarterback who handed him the ball. Schul swept left and tried to turn the corner when a defender crashed into Schul’s right side. Schul staggered to his feet, and likely in today’s game, might have sat down, if not for a play, for the rest of the game. Schul was back in the huddle, and played out the scrimmage, getting hit time and time again by the bigger boys. It was year’s later when talking with university football players that Schul actually had a hip pointer, and that players wore special foam protection for the hip, because “you can’t play with a hip pointer.” But Schul did, taking the punishment.

bob-schul-in-high-school
Bob Schul in high school
After graduating from high school, Schul enrolled at his neighborhood university, Miami of Ohio. He was not there on a scholarship. And in when he started, he was just fortunate to get a job washing dishes in the school dorm. But he was on the track team, and through the years, he worked himself into star status. It was April, 1964, only half a year from the Tokyo Olympics. Miami of Ohio was hosting a dual meet with a track team from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Schul decided that he would go for it, he would try to break the four-minute mile.

Roger Bannister had already accomplished that milestone, as it were, ten years previously, but no one had ever done it before in Ohio. So when Schul let it be known he was going for it on his home track, the buzz began. First things first, the track was a mess, particularly the inside track which had gotten messy due to the Spring rains. In the days before all-weather tracks, people ran on tracks that were composed of rocks or waste product formed into chunks and broken down more finely. The rain had washed bigger chunks of rock onto the inside track. The excess cinder had to be carted off and the track smoothed before the event. Schul told officials this needed to be done and volunteered to help.

As it turned out, nobody came out to clear the track, so he started doing it himself. He

1964 Tokyo Olympic Admission Ticket Front

I’ve got my ticket for the Tokyo Olympics!

It’s Gate L of the National Stadium, section 27, seat O-20. It’s a Class-3 ticket, which is not as good as Class 1 or Class-2, but it has a far better view than Class-4 or 5.

One problem. The National Stadium has been torn down. And the date of the ticket is Sunday, October 18, 1964.

Yes, in my occasional hunt for Olympic memorabilia, I purchased an original unused ticket from the XVIII Olympiad held in Tokyo nearly 52 years ago.

I love this piece of history, the red circle, followed by a blue circle and the runner icon which represents Athletics. The clock at the top shows the start time – the white circle with black hands indicating that this is the first time slot of the day, and that I would only be able to see the second time slot of the day if I had the relevant ticket with a black clock with white hands.

1964 Tokyo Olympic Admission Ticket Back
Back of the admission ticket

 

The stubs are serrated in logical fashion – the first stub removed at the gate, the second removed as you enter the section, leaving you with the seat number. The price on the ticket is JPY1,000, which at that time was priced at USD2.80 or GBP1.000. Better seats would have cost one to three thousand more yen, the cheaper ones 500 yen less.

But who cares, as long as you were in the National Stadium that day. What could I have seen with this ticket? While I am not sure what times of the day these events happened, I could possibly have witnessed:

It rained most of that day, as it did most of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. But that Sunday at the National Stadium would have been an amazing day indeed!

Tokyo Olympic Admission Tickets
From the book, The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964