|Olympic medal record|
|Silver||1968 Mexico City||200 metres|
Peter George Norman (15 June 1942 – 3 October 2006) was an Australian track athlete best known for winning the silver medal in the 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. His time of 20.06 seconds still stands as the Australian 200m record.He was a five-time Australian 200m champion. He is also known for his support of John Carlos and Tommie Smith when they made their famous gesture at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony.
Peter Norman is the uncle to Australian film-maker and actor Matt Norman who has directed and produced the cinema-released documentary Salute about the three runners through Paramount Pictures and Transmission Films.
Before the 1968 Olympics Norman was a trainer for West Brunswick Football Club as a way of keeping fit over winter during the athletic circuit’s off season. After 1968 he played 67 games for West Brunswick between 1972 and 1977 before coaching an under 19 team in 1978.
Norman kept running, but contracted gangrene in 1985 after tearing his Achilles Tendon during a charity race, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression, heavy drinking and pain killer addiction followed.
Australian organising authorities overlooked Norman as being involved in any way with the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney; he was however eventually part of the event after being invited by the Americans when they heard that his own country had failed to do so. On 17 October 2003 San Jose State University unveiled a statue commemorating the 1968 Olympic protest; Norman was not included as part of the statue itself—his empty podium spot intended for others viewing the statue to “take a stand”—but was invited to deliver a speech at the ceremony.
The gold and bronze medalists in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics were Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, respectively. On the medal podium, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner“, Smith and Carlos famously joined in a Black Power salute.
What is less known is that Norman, a white Australian, donned a badge on the podium in support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). After the race, Carlos and Smith told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. As Flanagan wrote: “They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, said he believed strongly in God. “We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, ‘I’ll stand with you’.” Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes. He didn’t. “I saw love. On the way out to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the badge being worn by Paul Hoffman, a white member of the US Rowing Team, and asked him if he could wear it. It was also Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his gloves in the Olympic Village. This is the reason for Tommie Smith raising his right fist, while John Carlos raised his left.
Australia’s Olympic authorities reprimanded him and the Australian media ostracised him; Norman was also banned for two years on his return. Despite Norman running qualifying times for the 100m five times and 200m 13 times during 1971/72, the Australian Olympic track team did not send him, or any other male sprinters, to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the first modern Olympics since1896 where no Australian sprinters participated.
Death and honour
Norman died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64. US Track and Field Federation proclaimed 9 October 2006, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman Day. Thirty-eight years after the three made history, both Smith and Carlos gave eulogies and were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral.
An airbrush mural of the trio on podium exists in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney in Leamington Lane. Silvio Offria who allowed an artist known only as “Donald” to paint the mural on his house, said Norman came to Newtown to see the mural before he died in 2006, “He came and had his photo taken, he was very happy.” The monochrome tribute, captioned “THREE PROUD PEOPLE MEXICO 68,” is under threat of demolition to make way for a rail tunnel and counter actions are being attempted to retain it.
- ^ a b Beth Harris & Jordan Robertson, Australian Sprinter Peter Norman Dies, 3 October., 2006
- ^ a b c Hawker, Phillippa (15 July 2008). “Salute to a champion”. The Age. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- ^ Damian Johnstone and Matt Norman. A Race to Remember- the Peter Norman Story. Jo Jo Publishing. Sydney. 2003.
- ^ Schembri, Jim (17 July 2008). “Salute”. The Age. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
- ^ Martin Flanagan. Tell Your Kids About Peter Norman. The Age. 10 October 2006 http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/tell-your-kids-about-peter-norman/2006/10/09/1160246071527.html accessed 27 Jan 2011.
- ^ a b Hurst, Mike (2006-10-07). “Peter Norman’s Olympic statement”. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail The Courier-Mail. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,,20541398-10389,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- ^ BBC News Magazine, “The other man on the podium”, 17 October 2008
- ^ Hurst, Mike (7 October 2006). “Peter Norman’s Olympic statement”. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- ^ a b “Last stand for Newtown’s ‘three proud people'”, Josephine Tovey, 27 July 2010, Sydney Morning Herald