Moments of Melbourne, Part 8 - Friday, November 30th, 1956

A Harvard analyst named Gert Fredriksson the second most dominant Olympian of all time, second only to American jumper Ray C. Ewry, but still ahead of Carl Lewis and Michael Phelps. The Swedish flatwater canoe racer won six of eight Olympic finals in his long career and added one silver and one bronze medal each. From 1948 to 1960, Fedriksson (picture: Sportschau) became a legend on the water. When he won the K1 10,000 meters on Lake Wendouree on November 30th, 1956, it happened nine days after his 37th birthday.

Had it not been for Fredriksson's endurance and discipline, maybe World War II would have prevented him from winning any Olympic gold, like it did to his famous compatriot, runner Gunder Haegg. The fire fighter from Nykoeping had started canoeing in 1937 and was at world class level in the 1940s, losing only one race between 1943 and 1948. When the 1948 London Olympics came around, he was already 29 years old. His triumph in the K1 10,000 meters race on the River Thames came at a margin of 30.5 seconds - the largest ever in an Olympic final.

Fredriksson contined to dominate this way at Helsinki in 1952, Melbourne, and Rome in 1960. In Down Under, his preparation had been hampered by injuries, but he still won both the 10,000 and the 1000 meters. In the former event, he outraced Hungary's Ferenc Hatlaczki by almost ten seconds. His opponent was 15 years younger than Fredriksson.

The super athlete collected honours as well as medals. In 1956, he became one of only 15 athletes to be awarded the Mohammed Taher Trophy by the International Olympic Comittee. In 1949, he had already cashed in the "Svenska Dagbladet gold medal". Fredriksson died in the summer of 2006 after a long battle with cancer in his hometown of Nykoeping, which had honoured him with a statue during his lifetime (picture: 4-bp-blogspot).

News of the day: The other 10,000 meters finals in canoeing are won by the USSR, Hungary, and Romania +++ In track and field, Betty Cuthbert from Australia wins her second gold in the 200 meters, while Soviet shot putter Tamara Tyshkevitsh also earns highest honours +++ Milton Campbell (USA) becomes "king of athletes" by winning the decathlon +++ Pentti Linnosvuo from Finland wins the first shooting gold of Melbourne with the free pistol +++ In fencing, the individual epee contest is won by Italy's Carlo Pavesi +++ Swimming kicks off with two medal decisions: Australian John Henricks wins the men's 100 meters freestyle, Germany's Ursula Happe the women's 200 meters breaststroke.

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