28.11.2016

Moments of Melbourne, Part 7 - Thursday, November 29th, 1956

It took Christopher Brasher 8 minutes and 41.2 seconds to finish first in the Olympic 3000 meters steeplechase finals. But to get to the top of the podium, he had to endure more than three hours of waiting. The dramatic race on the afternoon of November 29th, 1956, at Melbourne Cricket Ground was surrounded by controversy and had long repercussions.


On the first view, everything seemed crystal clear: Brasher, not a steeplechase specialist, had edged out Hungary's European champion and world record holder Sandor Rozsnoyi on the home stretch to capture a surprising gold. But suddenly Brasher was disqualified, allegedly for having interferred with Norway's bronze medal winner Ernst Larsen at the beginning of the final lap. But when Larsen declared, in a great showing of sportsmanship, that Brasher had touched him, but without hindering his running, Brasher was reinstated. He celebrated this with a “liquid lunch“ with some journalists and stood on top of the podium, as he confessed later, “blind drunk, totally blotto”.

The film of the scene (courtesy of onlinefootage.tv) cannot clarify what happened without a doubt, but after long discussions, the result stood (picture: Getty).

video


For Brasher, the gold medal was the climax of a colourful life and athletics career. Born in British Guyana in 1928, he had lived in Jerusalem for some time, before returning to merry old England and attending the famous Rugby and St. John's College in Cambridge. He picked up track and field in 1950. Until the Melbourne Games, his most notorious achievement had been his support as a pacemaker for Roger Bannister when he broke the four-minute barrier in the mile race in 1954.


After Melbourne, Brasher immediately retired, but was still an omnipresent figure in the athletics scene until his death in 2003. "Bloody" Brasher worked as a journalist for The Observer and the BBC. In the 1980s, he became one of the founding fathers of the London marathon (picture: IAAF).


News of the day: Charles Jenkins (USA) wins the 400 meters ahead of Germany's Karl-Friedrich Haas. +++ Another surprising gold medal for Great Britain is fencer Gillian Sheen's triumph in the women's foil event.


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