Moments of Melbourne, Part 3 - Saturday, November 24th, 1956

The story of a hammer thrower winning Olympic gold with a crippled arm would have been enough to make tabloid headlines. But there was even more to the triumph of Harold Connolly at Melbourne. Love was in the air - a love that was stronger than Cold War borders.

When Harold Connolly won the gold on the afternoon of Saturday, November 24th, 1956, he did so against all odds. Following several childhood injuries, his right arm was nine centimeters shorter than his left, preventing Connolly from becoming a professional boxer as he had hoped for. But the handicap raised his fighting spirit: "I was a handicapped person who knows the agony of all-out trying and not accomplishing. They didn’t treat the disabled with dignity then. I couldn’t stand to be treated differently."

Instead, the man from Massachussets turned to hammer throwing. In his career, he broke the world record six times and in 1960 became the first man to throw the hammer over the 70 meters line. In Melbourne, he defeated the Soviet favourites Mikhail Krivonossov and Anatoli Samozvetov with a throw of 63.19 meters (picture: hmmrmedia).

But Connolly had more than gold on his mind.

In the week before the Games, he had met Czech discus thrower Olga Fikotová in the Olympic village. Fikotová won the gold 24 hours before Connolly's triumph. They fell in love immediately, accompanied by a lot of fanfare in the western media. The fact that the couple-to-be lived on different sides of the Iron Curtain added to the drama. Three months after the Olympics, Connolly proposed to Fikotová in Prague. After the Czech president had given his permission, they married in October 1957 with 30,000 well-whishers looking on (pictures: UCI/Getty).

"The H-bomb overhangs us like a cloud of doom. The subway during rush hours is almost impossible to endure," The New York Times wrote on the day after their marriage. "But Olga and Harold are in love, and the world does not say no to them." From then on, the Connollys were regular guests in American TV and papers and had a son. But the honeymoon did not last forever. The marriage was divorced in 1974. What remained were two Olympic gold medals and the feel-good story of Melbourne. Connolly, who in 1983 had admitted the use of anabolic steroid during his athletic career, died in August 2010, aged 79.

News of the day: Bobby Morrow (USA) becomes the fastest man on earth, winning the 100 meters dash ahead of fellow American Thane Baker and Australia's Hector Hogan +++ Further athletics gold go to Glenn Davis (USA) in the 400 meters hurdles, Norman Read (New Zealand) in the 50 km race walk, and Greg Bell (USA) in the long jump. +++ The first two golds for the USSR are won by weightlifters Igor Rybak (Light weight) and Fiodor Bogdanovski (Middle weight).

Notice: On November 25th, 1956, no competitions were held due to Sunday sports restrictions. Our next post comes to you on November 26th.

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