I’ve been shedding a tear today over the death of Peter Norman, one of Australia’s greatest athletes and all-round lovely bloke.
It was Peter Norman who stood on the dais at the 1968 Mexico Olympics with the American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, as they raised their gloved fists in a silent but dramatic black power salute. I was seven – my dad was over there and the three things I remember about the Mexico Olympics is that Ron Clarke collapsed, my dad had a blood blister that took up his whole heel after his race (the kind of gross detail kids never forget), and that photo of the three men on the dais.
Oh and some kid called Raelene Boyle sprinting down the home straight within spitting distance of the great Irena Swezinska.
Look at that photo of the protest now, and you see how young, how vulnerable and how brave they were. I remember watching Peter race, later, and remember him for some reason as being much more muscular and powerful than that skinny lad standing steadfast with the world glaring at him.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos were ostracised and sacked from the team after that incident. They were both at the funeral today:
Carlos said that Norman deserved to be as well-known as Steve Irwin. “Go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman,” he said.