Moments of Melbourne, Part 6 - Wednesday, November 28th, 1956

Almost nobody noticed, but Olympic history was made on this cloudy Wednesday, November 28th, 1956, at Oaklands Hunt Club in the north of Melbourne. When Lars Hall crossed the finish line of the cross-country run, the last part of the modern pentathlon, the carpenter from Karlskrona had achieved something nobody had done before him. He had defended the Olympic crown in the most versatile sport imaginable (picture: Getty).

Hall had taken up the complicated modern pentathlon in 1947 while he was at service in the Swedish navy. He was a good rider, swimmer, and an excellent fencer, but ironically had his problems at shooting. In 1950 and 1951, Hall became world champion and was one of the favourites for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. In Finland, he won the gold mainly because he was the best in equestrian and swimming. As he had left the navy before, he was the first pentathlete to win the title without being an officer or in the military at all.

Four years later on the outskirts of Melbourne, many things had changed. First and foremost, in 1954 a new points system had been established, which replaced the old formula where the rankings of each event were added up. What had not changed, was Halls supremacy. The title holder, now 29 years old, started of with a fine fourth place in riding, had his usual problems with the pistol, shooting only 181 out of 200 points possible, but followed suit with a personal best in swimming. After a hell of a cross-country run, Hall had collected 4883 points, edging out the Finns Olavi Mannonen and Vaino Korhonen for his second gold (picture: China Daily).

For his achievement, Hall was awarded the "Svenska Dagbladet gold medal" for 1956, together with cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg - a kind of Sportsman of the Year award and an honour normally reserved for Sweden's winter sports heroes. Hall died in 1991 in Taeby (picture: Collnect).

News of the day: In athletics, Vladimir Kuts of the USSR wins his second gold in the 5000 meters. His countryman Leonid Spirine is the fastest race walker in the 20 km event. +++ American Lee Calhoun prevails in the 110 meters hurdles, while his US teammate Parry O'Brien defends his title in the shot put. +++ Also an encore after gold in Helsinki in 1952: Australia's Shirley Strickland de la Hunty grabs the 80 meters hurdles gold. +++ Best female javelin thrower is Inese Jaunzeme from the USSR. +++ Italy's fencers win the men's epee team competition.

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