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Athletics at the 1968 Ciudad de México Summer Games

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Host City: Ciudad de México, Mexico
Date Started: October 13, 1968
Date Finished: October 20, 1968
Events: 36

Participants: 1,028 (785 men and 243 women) from 92 countries
Youngest Participant: USA Esther Stroy (15 years, 64 days)
Oldest Participant: ISL Guðmundur Hermannsson (43 years, 78 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 13 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): USA United States (28 medals)

Overview

The biggest concern for the first Olympics held in America, but not the United States, was the fact that Ciudad de México sits at an altitude of 2,244 metres (7,360 feet). No previous Summer Olympics had been held at more than 200 metres of altitude. While fast times were expected in the sprint races, there was great concern about the lack of oxygen’s effect on the distance runners. Both expectations came true. World records were set in the 100, 200, 400, and several were set in the triple jump. In the long jump, Bob Beamon simply jumped into the next century, winning the gold medal with a meteoric 8.90 metres (29-2½), surpassing the world record by almost two feet, and winning the competition by 71 centimetres (28 inches). His world record would last for 23 years, broken in 1991 by Mike Powell at the 1991 World Championships. On the track, the 5,000 and 10,000 were won in very slow times, as the altitude affected the runners. And both races were won by African who had grown up at altitude – Mohamed Gammoudi (TUN) in the 5K and Kenya’s Naftali Temu in the 10K. One of the saddest sights of the Games came at the end of the 10K, when Australian distance runner Ron Clarke, world record holder and the favorite going into the Olympics, collapsed at the finish line. The doctors who ran to revive him were startled to see the condition of this superb athlete and openly wept in front of the Stadium crowd. Fortunately, he fully recovered. The marathon was also won by an African, with Ethiopia’s Mamo Wolde winning the third straight gold medal in that race for his nation. Two-time defending champion Abebe Bikila started but had to stop because of a stress fracture in his leg. On the field, Al Oerter won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the discus throw, the first athlete to win four consecutive gold medals, excluding the 1906 Olympics. Among the women, Wyomia Tyus became the first person, male or female, to defend the gold medal in the 100 metres.

The biggest controversy of the 1968 Olympic athletics came in the medal ceremony for the 200 metres. The race was won by American Tommie Smith with his teammate John Carlos earning a bronze medal. Both Smith and Carlos had been part of discussions by American blacks about boycotting the 1968 Olympics, but eventually all of them competed. But on the medal podium, to protest the treatment of American blacks, while the American anthem played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised a single black-gloved fist. It was not well-received and Smith and Carlos were asked to leave the Olympic Village by the IOC, but they have since been lauded for their quiet protest.

Medalists

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Men's 100 metres USA Jim Hines JAM Lennox Miller USA Charlie Greene
Men's 200 metres USA Tommie Smith AUS Peter Norman USA John Carlos
Men's 400 metres USA Lee Evans USA Larry James USA Ron Freeman
Men's 800 metres AUS Ralph Doubell KEN Wilson Kiprugut USA Tom Farrell
Men's 1,500 metres KEN Kip Keino USA Jim Ryun FRG Bodo Tümmler
Men's 5,000 metres TUN Mohamad Gammoudi KEN Kip Keino KEN Naftali Temu
Men's 10,000 metres KEN Naftali Temu ETH Mamo Wolde TUN Mohamad Gammoudi
Men's Marathon ETH Mamo Wolde JPN Kenji Kimihara NZL Mike Ryan
Men's 110 metres Hurdles USA Willie Davenport USA Erv Hall ITA Eddy Ottoz
Men's 400 metres Hurdles GBR Dave Hemery FRG Gerhard Hennige GBR John Sherwood
Men's 3,000 metres Steeplechase KEN Amos Biwott KEN Benjamin Kogo USA George Young
Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay USA United States CUB Cuba FRA France
Men's 4 × 400 metres Relay USA United States KEN Kenya FRG West Germany
Men's 20 kilometres Walk URS Volodymyr Holubnychiy MEX José Pedraza URS Mykola Smaha
Men's 50 kilometres Walk GDR Christoph Höhne HUN Antal Kiss USA Larry Young
Men's High Jump USA Dick Fosbury USA Ed Caruthers URS Valentin Gavrilov
Men's Pole Vault USA Bob Seagren FRG Claus Schiprowski GDR Wolfgang Nordwig
Men's Long Jump USA Bob Beamon GDR Klaus Beer USA Ralph Boston
Men's Triple Jump URS Viktor Saneyev BRA Nélson Prudêncio ITA Giuseppe Gentile
Men's Shot Put USA Randy Matson USA George Woods URS Eduard Gushchin
Men's Discus Throw USA Al Oerter GDR Lothar Milde TCH Ludvík Daněk
Men's Hammer Throw HUN Gyula Zsivótzky URS Romuald Klim HUN Lázár Lovász
Men's Javelin Throw URS Jānis Lūsis FIN Jorma Kinnunen HUN Gergely Kulcsár
Men's Decathlon USA Bill Toomey FRG Hans-Joachim Walde FRG Kurt Bendlin
Women's 100 metres USA Wyomia Tyus USA Barbara Ferrell POL Irena Szewińska-Kirszenstein
Women's 200 metres POL Irena Szewińska-Kirszenstein AUS Raelene Boyle AUS Jennifer Lamy
Women's 400 metres FRA Colette Besson GBR Lillian Board URS Nataliya Pechyonkina-Chistyakova
Women's 800 metres USA Madeline Manning-Jackson ROU Ileana Silai NED Mia Gommers
Women's 80 metres Hurdles AUS Maureen Caird AUS Pam Kilborn-Ryan TPE Chi Cheng
Women's 4 × 100 metres Relay USA United States CUB Cuba URS Soviet Union
Women's High Jump TCH Miloslava Hübnerová-Rezková URS Antonina Okorokova-Lazaryeva URS Valentyna Kozyr
Women's Long Jump ROU Viorica Viscopoleanu GBR Sheila Parkin-Sherwood URS Tatyana Talysheva
Women's Shot Put GDR Margitta Helmbold-Gummel GDR Marita Lange URS Nadezhda Chizhova
Women's Discus Throw ROU Lia Manoliu FRG Liesel Westermann HUN Jolán Kleiber-Kontsek
Women's Javelin Throw HUN Angéla Németh-Ránky ROU Mihaela Peneş AUT Eva Janko
Women's Pentathlon FRG Ingrid Mickler-Becker AUT Liese Sykora-Prokop HUN Annamária Kovács-Tóth