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Melbourne 1956 Olympics - History made on Day 9

30 November 2016

Day 9 - Friday 30 November 1956 (60 years ago today)

Day nine at the Melbourne Olympics was a historic day as Australia claimed its first swimming gold, first medal clean sweep, first canoeing medal and first boxing medal in 48 years. We were introduced to five-time Olympian paddler Dennis Green, Betty Cuthbert started her campaign towards a sprint double and Australian shooting were on target for their first Olympic medal.

ATHLETICS: After setting a world record in the leadup to the Games and winning the 100m, Betty Cuthbert seemed unstoppable, and she was, adding the 200m gold to her collection. She led a strong host national performance with three athletes in the top-four as Marlene Mathews took bronze and Norma Croker filled fourth place. At 18 years and 224 days, Cuthbert remains the youngest gold medallist in this event in 120 years of Olympic history.

The next day a newspaper carried the headline “Betty Cuthbert -  Golden Girl” I’m still not sure whether it was because of the colour of my hair, the gold medal I’d won or a combination of both. But it was a pseudonym I grew to be very, very proud of,” recalled Cuthbert.

BASKETBALL: Australia moved into the next round, where they played Canada in their 9-12th classification games. It was probably Australia’s worse performance at the Games, going down 83-38. The Aussies were shocked with the result as they considered they had played better.

BOXING: Mildura’s Kevin Hogarth, competing in the Welterweight (67kg) division won Australia’s first Olympic boxing for 48 years. Hogarth lost his semi-final bout to Ireland’s Fred Tiedi, by decision, but still earned a bronze, alongside GBR’s Nicky Gargano.

CANOEING: This was an historic day for Australian canoeing. In the first event on the program, held at 9.00am on the Lake Wendouree course in Ballarat, Maroubra mates Dennis Green and Walter Brown teamed up to compete in the men’s K2 10,000m. On debut, Australia won the bronze medal. It would win its next medal in 1980 and has remained in the medals at every Games since. In the true amateur days of the sport, Green and Brown built their boat on their lounge room floor from a European design they had obtained. Green went on to compete at five Olympic Games and was flag bearer in his last Games in Munich in 1972. During his enduring career, he won 64 Australian championships over 19 years. Green is also regarded as one of the greatest surf-ski paddlers of all time winning eight Australian open double ski championships and one single ski title. Now aged 85, Green continues to inspire the next generation and was a speaker at the AOC’s aspire sessions in the lead up to Rio.

In the remaining events on day one of competition Australia achieved three top-10 places. In the men’s K1 10,000m Max Baldwin placed ninth, in the C1 Bryan Harper also placed ninth. In the C2 10,000m event, the Australian pair of Bill Jones & Tom Ohman placed seventh in a time of 56 minutes 18.6 seconds, missing a medal by one minute.

DIVING: The first Australian divers to compete at the games were the men in the 3m springboard, but unfortunately they failed to progress to the final placing 17th (Arthur Winther, scoring 71.04), 19th (Joseph McCann, 69.18) and 20th (Ron Faulds, 68.84) in the qualifying round.

HOCKEY: Australia played Great Britain in their final group stage game. GBR had two draws and Australia two wins. GB led 1-0 at half-time and went on to win 2-1. The result was the teams were now equal at the top of the group, although Australia had a better for and against, which was not considered in that era. To break the tie, the teams played a re-match 22 hours later.

SHOOTING: On the first day of shooting at the Williamstown range, Australia achieved its best placing at the Games a result that would remain our highest until 1980, but could it have been a medal? Competing in the 50m Free Pistol, Adelaide’s Len Tolhurst shot rounds of 94, 90, 92, 84, 91 and 90 in his six rounds for a total score of 541. His low score in round four may well have cost him a medal. He placed eight, but within 10 shots of the bronze. Australia would wait until 1984 for their first Olympic shooting medal.

SWIMMING: A clean sweep of the medals by Australia in the first swimming event of the Games, the men’s 100m freestyle, set the tone for the all-conquering Australian swim team at the Games. Four years earlier Jon Henricks was the rising distance star in Australian swimming winning the national titles in the 440y, 880y and 1650y. A serious and persistent ear infection ruined his Olympic hopes for Helsinki. The following year he re-emerged as a sprinter and arrived at the 1956 Olympics as the favourite for the 100m freestyle. He went undefeated through the rounds progressively getting faster. Won his heat in 57.3, semi-final in an Olympic record of 55.7, then 55.4 to win the gold in a world record. Australia went 1-2-3 with John Devitt winning silver, ahead of his gold in 1960, and Gary Chapman the bronze. The Americans placed 4-5-6.

The early rounds of the women’s 100m Freestyle had commenced and Australia’s trio of Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp and Faith Leech won their heats and semi-finals.

WATER POLO: In their last Group match, Australia pushed world number one team, the Soviet Union team, who struggled to score against a solid Australian defence. The final score was 3-0.

WRESTLING: Competing in the Freestyle Middleweight (>79 kg) division Williams Davies lost his third round bout, finishing his Olympic campaign. He was defeated by American Dan Hodge, who went on to the gold medal, before becoming a professional boxer. 

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