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Melbourne 1956 Olympics - future cricket legends take to hockey pitch

4 December 2016

Day 13 – Tuesday 4 December 1956

On day 13, Australia continued its push towards medals in cycling, with two prospects continuing to impress in preliminary rounds. Murray Rose won gold, and future cricketing and surfing legends were in action.

CYCLING: The giant-killing run of the 2000m Tandem Sprint duo of Ian Browne and Tony Merchant continued on day two of the cycling program. First up they defeated South Africa in their quarter-final, avenging a defeat from their heat clash the day prior. This put Australia into a semi-final against Italy, which they again won, sending them through to the gold medal race, in two days, against Czechoslovakia, a team that Australia lost to in their repechage.

In the men’s sprint, after easily winning his heat and then quarter final against American Jack Disney, Melbourne’s Richard Ploog progressed to the semi-finals where his main opposition seemed to emerged as France’s Michel Rousseau, Italian Gugielmo Pesenti and Tasman-rival Warren Johnston from New Zealand. But there was plenty of drama in Richard Ploog’s semi-final against the Italian Pesenti. Going into the third and deciding race they were one-all. In the decider Ploog took the lead on the last back straight as they started the sprint. Ploog swept down inside Pesenti who passed him quickly, and Ploog stood up, but he did not raise his hand for a protest, and did not actually finish the course on the track. Later that evening, the commissaries ruled in Pesenti’s favor, but Australia appealed again and it was not until the next morning that the final ruling came back that there had been no foul. Ploog proceeded into the bronze medal race two days later.

HOCKEY: In their second 5th to 8th classification tournament games, Australia defeated New Zealand 2-1. This game was significant as it included three cricketers in the team. One was NSW’S Brian Booth who would go onto captain the Australian cricket team. The game also included two WA first class cricketers, Ian Dick and Maurice Foley.

SWIMMING: The lead up form to the Olympics of 17-year-old Murray Rose could not have been better. In October he had swum the fastest 400m freestyle time in history (in a 50m pool), just outside the world record set in a 25m pool. He had won his heat narrowly from Japan’s Tsuyoshi Yamanaka and American George Breen. In the final he extended that margin to three seconds over Yamanaka, as he took three seconds off the Olympic record and narrowly missed the world record. Yamanaka won silver and American Breen the bronze. In 1957 FINA changed the rules allowing world records only in 50m pools, resulting in Rose’s Melbourne swim belatedly being named the world record.

WRESTLING: Unfortunately, on this day Australia’s seven Greco-Roman Wrestlers lost their second bouts and were eliminated. One interesting member of the host nation team was Joe Sweeney in the Bantamweight (57kg) division. Sweeney became famous in the early 1960s for organising the bulldozing of the first access road to Bells Beach. He was a regular surfer at Bells all year round. He carved the annual Bells Beach surfing contests trophies. He died earlier this year (2016) aged 82 (view a story about Joe Sweeney, his trophy building and Bells Beach).

David Tarbotton

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