The Greeks started it in 776 B. C. but 50 years ago the world decided to start holding Olympic games again, every leap year. 1936 was a leap year and back then in the early era of Roosevelt the last Olympic games were held. In that year Jesse Owens streaked to four world's records in the Berlin Stadium, the University of Washington crew edged the best eights in the world, and miler Lou Zamperini climbed up a flagpole after a swastika and shinnied right into an international incident. Perhaps it's a sign that peace is really here; for in 1948 the world plans to hold another edition of the Olympic games this time in London, England.
Men seem agreed that it takes a certain amount of talent to get on the U. S. Olympic team, for the competition is the stiffest this country can produce since all get a chance to enter. In the past, Olympic representatives have come mainly from the athletic clubs and the post-college ranks, with only a few from colleges making the grade. But 1948 may be different; at least athletes along the Charles hope to make it so. Olympic fever, a malady unknown for many year, has reappeared in the sports world.
Last spring newspapers all over the country tagged the Crimson crew as a good bet to go to the Olympics. Tom Bolles' oarsmen set a new world's record in Seattle last July and rated as the best in the United States. At the boathouse almost everyone would like to spend the summer in London, but optimism does not pervade. Frank Cunningham, 1947 Varsity stroke, graduated this June as did Oliver Filley, the Jayvee stroke. Bob Stone, the captain and number four oar, and Stuart Clark, number two oar, were both Seniors last year and Bolles will have to replace them. Two other men from the Jayvee boat, Bim Chandler and Squat Stewart, are also gone, as is Al Petite, the Varsity cox. College coaches are used to rebuilding and Tom Bolles has already started trying out new strokes. He has built many champions before.
Crewmen point out several other significant facts. Third in last year's race at Seattle was the University of Washington's Freshman crew--they were better than their Varsity teammates. Navy and Yale both did well last year and both had green, young crews. Shortly after the Poughkeepsie regatta this spring and probably in Seattle, which has become the crew center of the United States, the U. S. Olympic Committee will sponsor a race between the top crews of the country to decide which one will represent the United States in Europe. Past performances will therefore not get a crew to the Olympics.
Spotlight on Track
Track generally holds the spotlight in Olympic games and at this early date, coaches see two possible Crimson track candidates. Varsity weight man Sam Felton on performance rates as the better of the two. Felton hurls the discus as well as various other weights and this summer established himself as one of the best weightmen in the United States. After placing third in the IC4A hammer throw last spring Felton won the national Canadian championship and placed second in the national A.A.U. meet in Lincoln, Nebraska, this summer. Working under Varsity weight coach Ed Flanagan, he has been practicing his hammer throwing this fall and consistently throwing over 170 feet. Only one man in the country currently is throwing the ball and wire any farther than this.
Don Trimble, the track team's other hope, operates in the javelin throw and last spring won the Nonagonal championship with a heave of 205 feet; but in California a man named Steve Seymour has reached the 248 foot mark and a couple of others in the country have gone as high as 220. Last year, however, was Trimble's first season in bigtime competition and Coach Jaakko Mikkola looks for improvement.
Three men represent the United States in each track event at the Olympic games, and they will be chosen at a meet to be held late next spring in Minneapolis. The national AAU meet and the NCAA meet will be the semi-finals for the decisive Minneapolis meet, with former U. S. Olympic representatives eligible, without placing in the semi-finals.
Pete Fuller, Varsity wrestling captain, represents the only other Crimson Olympic hope who can be justified six months ahead of time. Both a boxer and a wrestler, Fuller intends to tryout for the Olympic team on both squads and stands about an equal chance of making either one. As a fighter Fuller has lost only one fight, a close decision to national AAU champ, Willie Clemmons, two weeks ago in the Garden, while winning 26 other fights, 21 by knockouts. Clemmons plans to turn pro the first of next year, but Fuller may fight him in a return match toward the end of November. A heavyweight, he has not met most of the other possible contenders for the Olympic position at that weight. To win the coveted trip to London, Fuller will have to take the New England regionals, which will be held early next spring in Boston, and then take the final tryouts scheduled for the early part of July. The winners of these tryouts will compete in the games themselves some two weeks later.
As a wrestler Fuller could enter either the 191-pound class or the unlimited division since he weighs in the neighborhood of 195. Last year in collegiate competition he ended as one of the best in the East, losing a decision to Henry O'Shaughnessey of Columbia in the final of the Eastern Intercollegiate heavyweight championships. The main obstacle in his path, however, seems to be one Henry Wittenberg of the New York City Police department. Regarded as the top amateur wrestler in the country, Wittenberg has not been beaten since he left CCNY 12 years ago. Fuller lost a 12 to 6 decision to him in New York last spring in one of the only bouts last year where Wittenberg failed to pin his opponent. As yet Wittenberg has not announced whether he plans to enter the unlimited or 191-pound classes although his weight now stands over 200. According to tentative Olympic plans, the New England regional tryouts will be held at Harvard late this winter, which will facilitate the chances of other Crimson hopefuls.
Another possible Harvard entry in the Olympic wrestling is John Harkness, captain of the '39 team and Eastern Intercollegiate champion at 175 pounds when he was at college. Harkness lost an 8 to 7 decision to Wittenberg just before the war and holds the distinction of being the man most nearly to beat Henry. Now an architect in the Boston area, Harkness worked out at the Indoor Athletic Building twice a week last winter. In the lighter classes Harvard chances, in fact Eastern chances, are grim; for traditionally the light and middleweights come from Oklahoma, which for 25 years has been the grappling center of the U. S. A.
The Money Counts
Like the H.A.A., Olympic games do not run on athletes alone. They require the services of a number of executives and also a considerable amount of cash. Harvard has its fingers in the pie on both of these counts. In 1936 William J. Bingham '16, director of the H.A.A., held what is probably the second biggest executive job in the Games, chairman of the track and field committee. This year Bingham is on the Olympic executive committee, the group which makes the American policy for the Games.
Olympic games are financed by the contributions of the sports fans who give either at athletic contests or through organizations with which they are affiliated. So far this year the H.A.A. has collected $650 to be contributed toward the general Olympic fund allocated by the executive committee. On the back of this year's Yale game ticket application is a request for money for Harvard's contribution to the games.
"We feel the contributions ought to be voluntary," Bingham says, "and therefore we are not adding a percentage to the tickets as is being done at some athletic contests. In other Olympic games this has worked quite satisfactorily; in fact we had contributed $1000 to the 1940 Olympic preliminaries before the games were officially called off."
There are opportunities for other teams which may have hopes of winning olive wreaths and oak trees but unfortunately not too bright ones. America's major sports--football, baseball and basketball--gain rather minor positions in Olympics. Football, as the U. S. plays it, is popular in no other nation and although there has been talk of sending an exhibition team, it is unlikely. An exhibition baseball team usually travels to the Olympic games and in 1948 there may be some other nations to play it. If there are and the executive committee decides to send one, the players would be picked individually through regional tryouts. America always wins the Olympic basketball crown by a top-heavy margin, but apparently Europe wants to try again this year and a team will be sent probably picked from the squads who make the finals of the New York Garden tournaments this winter.
America's soccer team, which very seldom has gone anywhere in world competition, is picked in regional tryouts similar to those of baseball. The best men in the regionals then go to the finals--in 1936 it was in Brooklyn--when the final squad is picked and a couple of weeks then remain for the coaches to make the players into a team. In 1936 Andrew Guyda, the Crimson Freshman soccer coach, played wing and halfback for the American team which lost to India, the squad which eventually copped the world title.
Olympians on Skates
Hockey has generated considerable world interest for the past 40 years and the U. S. A. sends an amateur team to the Olympics every leap year, more as a gesture than anything else, for it usually is promptly beaten by Canada or one of the Scandinavian countries. The hockey representatives will probably be picked as a team, at least the nucleus will, and should the Crimson some up with an unusually good season, as far as the H.A.A. is concerned, it would be eligible to enter the regional tryouts. Sports such as skiing and rifle are, of course, worked on an individual basis.
Swimming is the last sport which could conceivably produce a Harvard Olympic representative, but on the basis of times last year it will not. In 1936, however, a Harvard swimmer did go to Germany. Charles G. Hutter, Jr. swam every heat in the 800 meters free style but the final one in which Robert Kiphuth, the Olympic coach for 1936 and Yale's mentor, substituted Yale's John Macionis for him.
The next winter in New Haven Hutter and Macionis swam against each other in the Harvard-Yale meet and Hutter reared to a length and a half victory, thereby leading the Crimson team to its first victory over a Yale swimming team in 13 years. "That was one of the greatest thrills I've ever had in sports." William Bingham says.