For 15 wonderful minutes at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico del Nuoto on the opening evening of the swimming competitors, Lance Larson was celebrated as an Olympic champion.
Moments earlier on the evening of August 26, 1960, Larson, the El Monte Excessive Faculty and USC standout, overtook within the closing meters after which out-touched Australia’s John Devitt to win the 100-meter freestyle last. Devitt congratulated Larson on his victory. Photographers crowded round his lane snapping images of the brand new gold medalist.
Larson even took a victory lap across the Olimpico del Nuoto pool deck.
“After which we began listening to whispers,” Larson would later recall.
Larson misplaced his gold medal in what greater than 60 years later stays essentially the most controversial swimming race in Olympic historical past when Devitt was single-handily awarded the Olympic title by a choose who had exceeded his authority in a call that prompted modifications in how swimming outcomes are decided and led to greater than six many years of criticism of the Worldwide Olympic Committee not just for not interceding in Rome however failing to undo the injustice by not awarding Larson a gold medal within the ensuing years.
“It was a nasty deal,” Larson later stated.
Larson, who went on to be a longtime dentist in Orange, died on January 19. He was 83.
A celebration of life shall be held March 1 at 11 a.m. on the Backyard Grove Lodge of the Benevolent and Protecting Order of Elks in Backyard Grove. In lieu of flowers, contributions in reminiscence of Larson could also be made to the Trojan Victory Fund supporting the USC males’s and girls’s swimming and diving program.
Blonde, tan and tall (6-feet-1, 174 kilos), Larson regarded like he had dove into the waters of Olimpico del Nuoto straight off the silver display of one of many seaside movies that had been gaining recognition on the time, the last word Southern California golden boy.
At El Monte Excessive Faculty he was the primary prep swimmer to interrupt the 50-second barrier within the 100-yard freestyle and the primary man on the planet to interrupt the one-minute barrier within the 100-meter butterfly.
In Rome, Australia’s Jon Henricks, the defending Olympic champion, was eradicated within the semifinals leaving the main focus within the 100 freestyle last on Devitt, the present world record-holder at 54.6 seconds, and Larson, then 20.
The pool’s lights had been dimmed for the ultimate for dramatic impact, a call that observers stated led to the submit race confusion.
Brazil’s Manuel Dos Santos led early however was handed by Larson and Devitt with 25 meters to go. Larson touched the ultimate wall underwater, Devitt reaching the end with a contact out of the water. Peter Daland, USC’s Corridor of Fame head coach, later stated Larson received the race by half a foot.
“All people down there advised me I had received,” Larson advised reporters after the race.
Certainly the three timers timing Larson had him ending in 55.0, 55.1 and 55.1. The timers timing Devitt all clocked him in 55.2. However the outcomes on the time had been decided not by time however by ending judges. The three first place judges voted Devitt the winner by a 2-1 vote. However the three second place judges additionally decided that Devitt was the runner-up by 2-1 vote. An newly developed computerized digital timing system recorded Larson in 55.10 and Devitt in 55.16. However the system on the time was not used for official functions.
Regardless of Larson’s edge in each the guide and digital timing, the swimming competitors’s chief choose, Hans Runstromer of West Germany, who had no authority over the matter, took it upon himself to declare Devitt the Olympic champion and ordered Larson’s time modified to 55.2, the identical as Devitt’s, a brand new Olympic file.
Runstromer insisted he had been on the ending line on the finish of the race. However pictures and video clearly confirmed him 5 meters down the facet of the dimly lit pool as distant as 25 meters from the place Larson and Devitt completed.
U.S. officers appealed Runstromer’s ruling to no avail.
”One man obtained the time and the opposite obtained the gold medal,” Larson later stated.
R. Max Ritter, one of many founding members of swimming’s worldwide governing physique, FINA, now World Aquatics, fought unsuccessfully for many years to have the Rome outcomes corrected.
“Bodily Tradition and Sport: Research and Analysis,” an instructional journal decided in 2009 that “Runstromer’s choice undoubtedly sanctioned untruth.”
However the IOC has refused to overturn that untruth, some extent that was highlighted in 2002 when the IOC awarded Canada determine skating pairs Jamie Sale and David Pelletier gold medals through the Salt Lake Metropolis judging scandal.
Devitt died final August after a protracted sickness. He was 86.
“I feel,” Larson as soon as advised the New York Occasions, “John has needed to dwell with the sensation for a few years that he most likely didn’t actually win that gold medal.”