Excerpt from “Gold Medal Day” by Ralph Doubell

The date is 15 October 1968.

It’s 3.30 pm and my final is at 6.10 pm. I’d better get down to the track. The driver is waiting for me. It was good of Judy Patching to make a car available.

A swimmer, the other day, missed his final when caught in a traffic jam. I would hate to do that.

I feel quite good. I haven’t done anything since I got up around 10.30. Lunch was OK and I should have enough time to digest it by 6 o’clock.

Some chaps in the top rooms are watching the semi-finals of the 200 metres and it’s raining. The track has a film of water on it. Maybe if it rains anymore they will have to postpone it until tomorrow. Probably not, the track is Tartan.

I don’t know what is wrong with me. I felt more nervous yesterday before the semi-final. I wonder how Kiprigut is feeling. I don’t think he liked me beating him yesterday. The Kenyans think they are going to make a clean-sweep of the middle and long-distance events. I’d like to mess up their plans.

The warm-up track is almost deserted. The 400 metre hurdles must have been called already. I think I’ll lie down again.

Gee, yesterday’s run felt easy. I never thought running 1.45.7 could be as easy as that. Maybe I can take a second or even two off that.

There’s Tommy Farrell, the American. He ran in the final in Tokyo. I wonder if he is as nervous this time. It looks as though he is. I’m still not, but I thought I would be. That’s our last call. I guess I’d better go down and report in.

There’s Sherwood the Englishmen. He’s just run the 400 hurdles. Boy, he looks tired. That’s his wife with him. I wonder if he got a place.

The marshall is taking us down to the track. There’s the result of the hurdle. Hell, 48.1 – that’s fantastic. Hemery first – boy, that is surprising. Whitney didn’t get a place – I wonder what happened.

I’m more nervous now. I think I’ll jog down the track to see how far 80 yards looks. There’s somebody barracking for Australia. At least I’ve got a few people on my side. I wonder how Franz, Allen and Tony are feeling. They’re probably more nervous than me.

The marshall is telling us to get our track suits off.

I don’t think I’ll try a crouch start – I may break. Anyway I don’t want to start too fast. Heck, my legs feel like jelly. Maybe if I broke twice, I wouldn’t have to go through with all this. No, don’t be stupid. It would be mad to mess it up now.

There’s the gun. Let’s go. No, someone has broken. They’re pointing at me. I didn’t break. It must be the guy in the next lane. I wonder who he is.

There’s Kiprigut on the outside. I wonder if he will take the lead or let the other Kenyan do the work.

Here comes the second start. If I break, I’ll probably be disqualified, better take it easy. There’s Kiprigut going to the front. Where’s the other Kenyan. That negro is Cayenne from Trinidad.

Good! Kiprigut is going to do all the work himself. I’ve moved up from usual last around the bend and now there’s a couple behind me. This is OK. Stay here. I must maintain contact with Kiprigut.

This feels quite good. Stay back . . .

Try and stay in as close as possible to lane one going onto the top bend.

No use running farther than I have to. Still feeling quite good.

I wonder how fast we’re going. Probably about 50 or 51 for the first lap.

OK. Now move up a bit in the straight. I might get boxed in if I sit too far back. That’s good.

There’s the bell and Kiprigut’s still in the lead. Well, this is it. One lap to go. They’re starting to move. Cayenne’s dropping back. There goes somebody. Stay with him. Kiprigut’s trying to break away. Keep in contact with him – I’ll have to be with him 200 metres to go.

Start moving. That’s it. I’m with him. The others are not coming with us.

OK, Kiprigut, it’s now between you and me. Gee, I’m still feeling good. Maybe I can do it. Don’t go too early. Remember what Franz said: Leave it as late as possible. Wait until the straight.

We’ve still got 150 to go. I think I may be able to do it.

He’s flat out now. Don’t let him get away. Wait for the straight. One hundred yards to go. Wait for it. Wait. Wait. Here comes the straight – get ready.

OK. Now – 80 yards to go.

Go! Go! Hit it!

I’m past, I’m past, I’m past. But he’s still there. I haven’t broken contact. Come on, push it.

He’s still there – 50 yards to go. Come on, push harder.

That’s it, I’ve done it. I’ve broken contact. Keep pushing he’s still right behind. Keep going – 30 yards to go. He’s still there. I don’t think he’s going to do it. Hell, I think I’m going to win. Twenty yards to go. I’m going to win.

I’ve won it!, I’ve won it!

There’s the tape – keep pushing he’s still there. Ten yards to go . . . that’s it – that’s the tape I’m holding.

I’ve won it, I’ve won it.

*Extract from The Best Ever Australian Sports Writing (A 200 Year Collection) edited by David Headon

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

One response to “Excerpt from “Gold Medal Day” by Ralph Doubell

  1. Ralph Doubell (born 11 February 1945) was the third Australian man to win an Olympic track gold medal. His time of 1.44.33 in the 800m final equalled the world record and set a new Olympic record.

    Julius “Judy” Patching, AO, OBE (4 January 1917 – 13 February 2009) was the Chef-de-Mission for the Australian team at the 1968 Olympic Games.

    Wilson Kiprugut (born 1938) represented Kenya at the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games. He won the bronze medal in the 800 metres at the 1964 Olympics becoming the first Kenyan athlete ever to win an Olympic medal. Subsequently he won the silver medal in the same event at the 1968 Olympic Games.

    Tommy Farrell (born 18 January 1944) represented the United States of America in two Olympic Games competing in the 800 metres race. He came in at fifth place in 1964 and won the bronze medal in 1968.

    John Sherwood (born 4 June 1945) represented Britain and won the bronze medal in the 1968 Olympic Games for the 400 m hurdles.

    David Hemery (born 18 July 1944) represented Britain and was the winner of the 400m hurdles at the 1968 Summer Olympics in 48.12 seconds, a new world record.

    Ron Whitney (born 5 October 1942) represented the United States of America in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1968 Olympic Games where he finished in 6th place. He was favoured for the event having been ranked #1 in the world in 1967.

    Franz Stampfl (born Vienna 18 November 1913 – died 19 March 1995 Melbourne) was Doubell’s athletics coach. He pioneered a scientific system of Interval Training which became very popular with sprint and middle distance athletes.

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