Hunter Represents U.S. in Olympics, Wins Fourth in 100-Meter Freestyle
Rarely does a Harvard student become an Olympic athlete, hardly ever a champion. This past summer, Bruce Hunter, a Quincy House senior, achieved one childhood ambition by representing this country in Olympic competition, but missed another when he finished only fourth, one place from a medal-winner.
Yet, by Olympic Game standards, he earned the designation "Olympic champion." Hunter took fourth in the 100-meter freestyle, won disputedly by Jon Devitt of Australia.
Lance Larson of the University of Southern California took second according to the judges' decision, although three timers clocked him ahead of Devitt. U.S. officials protested the decision, but in vain. Manuel Dos Santos of Brazil was third.
Olympic Record Broken
The final timings of the race showed Devitt and Larson at 55.2, Dos Santos 55.4, and Hunter 55.6. The winning time broke the former Olympic mark of 55.4, set in 1956 by Jon Henricks of Australia, but not the world mark of 54.6, which Devitt himself set three months after the '56 games.
Hunter's swimming career illustrates both the thrills and agonies of becoming an athlete of world class.
He began at 11, when he joined the Cambridge (Mass.) YMCA by passing a beginners test. He was immediately asked to join the Y's team, showing at the very start a natural talent for the pool.
Beginning with his sophomore year at Cambridge High and Latin, Hunter singlehandedly represented his school in interscholastic meets, nailing fourth and fifth places in team standings against other institutions that had both complete teams and pools in which to practice. Cambridge Latin had neither; its whole team was Hunter.
During that same season, he made the interscholastic All-America in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles, a deed that caused swimming observers to take notice. Among these were Cambridge citizens, who urged construction of a city pool. Just following Hunter's graduation from Latin, the City completed its War Memorial Pool, located adjacent to the high school.
His freshman year, as captain, he participated in 30 different records. For the next two seasons, he became progressively faster, reaching new and tougher goals he had set for himself. During this time he kept swimming faster, but did so inauspiciously, not so anyone would notice it.
He capped his first two years of varsity competition with NCAA records in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles, 21.9 in the former and 48.6 in the latter.
His most difficult and most challenging task was making the United States Olympic team. Things looked dim when he finished third in the indoor AAU's, and failed even to qualify in the outdoor finals. As a collegiate swimmer during the season, he faced the problem of converting to long-course swimming in 50-meter long pools, with two less turns per 100 meters.
He made the semi-finals of the 100-meter trials in seventh place. Yet as if to prove that cliche that performance counts, he took second in the finals. American rules stated that the top two places in the finals go to Rome in that event, and Hunter was there.
At Rome, his event was the first day of competition. He missed the opening parade by sleeping his typical pre-meet schedule of 16 hours. His time for the semis was second to Larson's; he says he was up for the race.
But sprints are sprints, and Hunter came in fourth. He concentrated so hard on Devitt and Larson he missed seeing Dos Santos, and also missed a medal.
Furthermore, he concedes Lt. Jeff Farrell would have won in 54-plus had he competed. Farrell won the tough break trophy of 1960 when he contracted appendicitis a week before the Olympic trials, but thoroughly rewrote the never-give-up book by qualifying in the 800-meter medley relay.
Hunter's best-known idiosyncracy is his near blindness, something that pre sents great problems in unfamiliar pools. He broke an arm in the 1959 NCAA championships at the finish of one race. He must either wear his glasses to the starting block, or practically be led by the hand, except in the I.A.B.
Less known to outsiders, but known all too well to his coaches, is his knack for getting injured (ever so slightly but enough to be worrisome) in antics around the pool. He broke his toe on a trampoline before the 1959 Yale meet; he tore a toenail walking up steps to shower after winning his Olympic team berth.
Hunter, a man with quiet ambition, has present plans to help beat Yale next spring (he should have a tremendous psych factor in all his races), then enter the service where he can keep training, and win the 1964 Olympics