VAC Corner: What's changed? 1960-2010
May 24, 2010
Are the athletes of present time better than their counterparts of forty years ago, or have the new equipment, facilities and training methods accounted for a slew of new records in various sports?
In the sport of Track & Field, a quick assessment of numerous changes will help to answer this question to some degree.
In May of 1954 Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds on a damp track on a cool breezy day with no competition on the last lap. A 3:59 mile is still very creditable today and would qualify for the NCAA championships. In 1958 Herb Elliott ran the mile in 3:54.5 in Dublin and then won the Olympic championship in the 1500 meters in 3:35.0 which converts to a 3:53 mile. One can only speculate how fast these marvelous performances would be if run in more modern times with all the new advantages.
The same claim can be made in other events. In 1960 Otis Daves and Carl Kaufmann ran the 400 meters in 44.9 (HT) in Rome. Roger Moens ran the 800 meters in 1:45.7 in Oslo in 1953 and Peter Snell ran 800 meters in 1:44.3 in 62 but the most impressive performances in the 800 meters might be Rudolf Harbigs 1:46.6 in 1936.
World record holders and Olympic champions Glenn Morris, 1936 and Bob Mathias, 1950-54, decathlon champions would still score very well today. Obviously, more athletes are running fast times today because more athletes are running track and field and the facilities and opportunities are greater, but which generation had the single best athlete is still cause for speculation. As a footnote, one can be assured that records set in the 50’s and 60’s were drug free.
Del G. Hessel