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Track & Field News: 1964 Olympic 400 Hurdles - Cawley Finishes Strongly

by Syd DeRoner

With only 40 entries, only three races were needed. Five heats were run in the trials with the first three in each heat plus the fastest loser qualifying into the semi-finals the following day.

The heats went according to form. In the first heat John Cooper of Great Britain looked extremely good as he won in 50.5, his best time of the year. Roberto Frinolli of Italy led from the start but missed his step on the 8th and 9th hurdles and was passed by Cooper and Gary Knoke of Australia. Edvin Zageris of the USSR closed well to finish fourth in 51.5, which put him into the semi final. The second heat saw Rex Cawley, USA, break on top with Juan Dyrzka of Argentina running even until the 8th hurdle when Cawley pulled away to win in 50.8. Dyrzka, a left-footed hurdler, looked good as he finished second in 51.1. Peter Warden of Great Britain easily won the battle for the third spot. In the third heat, Wilfried Geeroms of Belgium came on strong in the stretch to nip Jay Luck, USA, and win in 51.2. Ken Roche of Australia also closed well after chopping his step at the second hurdle to catch Luck for second place. In this heat, Jerom Ochana of Uganda was out very fast but hit three successive hurdles and finished a distant fourth. Salvatore Morale of Italy, one of the favorites for the gold medal, led all the way to win the fourth heat in 51.1. Ferdinand Haas of Germany did not look good as Vasiliy Anisimov of the USSR edged him for second place and John Hogan of Great Britain almost caught him at the tape. The fifth heat saw the third American representative, Billy Hardin, get off slowly but then assume the lead at the fifth hurdle and go on to win in 51.3. This heat also had a surprise as Victor Maldonado of Venezuela closed very fast to edge a fine intermediate hurdler, Jaakko Tuominen of Finland, for second. Keiki Iijima of japan gave his countrymen a chance to cheer as he led the race through the fifth hurdle but he started to lose ground in the second half and placed 5th.

The weather was again good for the semi finals, run the following day at 2:15 p.m. The first heat had Frinolli, Tuominen, Warden, Geeroms, Cawley, Haas, Knoke, and Zageris in that order from lane one out. Frinolli was again away well and led until the 9th hurdle when Cawley, who was in 4th place over the fifth hurdle, caught him and won looking over his shoulder in the stretch in 49.8. This heat proved very interesting as two fine hurdlers, Haas and Tuominen, were shut out. Knoke stayed close to Frinolli and held off Geeroms to capture third place. Warden edged Haas for 5th with Zageris 7th and Tuominen a badly beaten last.

The second semifinal saw the end of the US 's dream of repeating the 1960 performance with a 1-2·3 finish in this event. Billy Hardin, who had stated he was in the best shape of his career, was shut out. He had hoped to emulate his father, Glenn Hardin, who had won this event in 1936. In lane 1 was Hardin; 2. Morale; 3. Luck; 4. Maldonado; 5. Roche; 6. Dyrzka; 7. Cooper; and 8. Anisimov. Luck was off extremely well and led all the way. He eased up slightly at the tape and Cooper, who had been running close to him, nipped him for first place. Morale also closed well as the three leaders swept across the tape with less than a foot separating them. Roche stayed up with the leaders early in the race but hit the 7th hurdle and lost ground from then on and was beaten by Anisimov for the fourth place. Hardin fell behind early as he missed his step on the first and second hurdles. Then in the stretch when he was starting to move, he hit the tenth hurdle and fell back to 6th at the tape. Maldonado and Dyrzka who looked good in the trials were never in the race as they finished 7th and 8th.

The lane assignments for the final on Friday in clear weather were: 1. Anisimov; 2. Knoke; 3. Luck; 4. Cooper; 5. Geeroms; 6. Cawley; 7. Frinolli; and 8. Morale. Cawley was out slowly as Morale and Frinolli were running even for the first five hurdles in the lead. Luck and Cooper were also ahead of Cawley early in the race. Cawley started to move going into the turn and caught everyone except Frinolli between the 7th and 9th hurdles. He passed Frinolli going over the 9th hurdle and closed with his usual burst of speed to win easily in 49.6. Meanwhile, things were happening behind him. Frinolli struggled as his pursuers closed on him. Luck moved well in the turn but hit the 8th hurdle and then lost his chance for second when he hit the 10th hurdle. Cooper and Morale also moved past Frinolli, and Cooper outran Morale in the drive to the tape for second place. Knoke, a real surprise, passed the faltering Frinolli and then caught Luck for 4th place. Frinolli held on for 6th place with Anisimov and Geeroms well back.

At the victory stand presentation, Cawley said he was most thrilled when two American trumpeteers, Uan Rasey and Manny Klein, finished the Star Spangled Banner for the Japanese band.

Watch Cawley's gold medal winning race.

This report originally appeared in the Oct/Nov 1964 Olympic edition of Track & Field News. Reprinted here with permission.

[Rex Cawley retired from track in 1965. The Farmington alum graduated from USC, and worked for 35 years in the medical/electronics industries. He retired and has since kept busy as a travel agent. His feats as a high schooler were so unbelievable and legendary that once, an old-timer recounted them by concluding, “After he got to USC, they injured him, and he was never the same again.” But he became a gold medalist and world record holder?? “Yeah, but he was never the same. He was amazing in high school.”]