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The Race That Changed Olympic Swimming | Strangest Moments

The Race That Changed Olympic Swimming | Strangest Moments


“Faster, Higher, Stronger” – the unimpeachable motto
of the Olympic Games. Yet for Lance Larson,
a 20-year-old American swimmer at the 1960 Olympic Games in
Rome, being fastest didn’t
necessarily translate into gold. The story of why that was so remains one of
the most controversial in Olympic Games history because, in 1960, for all the stopwatches,
timekeepers and cameras, you still had to convince
the judges that you were the winner too, and that was something Larson
couldn’t quite manage to do. 10,000 fans flocked to the spectacular swimming
arena in Rome that night, the first weekend action
of the Games. Two of the sport’s brightest
stars were ready to shine beneath the open skies. Larson had clocked the fastest time in the heats. His closest challenger was John Devitt of Australia. Everyone knew it was
head-to-head between Devitt and Larson for the gold. With all eyes
on the middle two lanes, the Brazilian,
Manuel dos Santos, in lane six, flew into a healthy lead
down the first 50 metres. Dos Santos led at the turn, but Devitt and Larson
were just getting started. Devitt hauled himself into the
lead, but Larson carved himself through the water too and pulled alongside
his great rival. The two men touched the wall. Everyone seemed to agree,
Larson had edged it. But an official told him
it wasn’t the case. Here was the problem. In 1960, there were
three timekeepers at the end of every lane, measuring the time of each
swimmer. The three stopwatches measuring Devitt
were all agreed. The three stopwatches recording
Larson were only slightly
different. The rules state that if two
times were the same, that was official. Larson was one tenth of a
second quicker than Devitt. But the swimming authorities of
1960 didn’t believe the instruments. They had judges too, 24 of
them, 12 in each side of the pool, whose job it was to decide who finished first. This was much closer. Three judges were asked who they thought finished
first. Two said Devitt and one said
Larson. Then three judges were asked who they thought finished
second. Two said Devitt. One said Larson. Six judges – three thought
Devitt won, three said Larson. It was a dead heat. The rules said that ties like
this should have sent the officials
to the timing machine. But instead, the chief judge, Hans Runstromer of Germany,
stepped in. Runstromer said that both
Devitt and Larson should be given the same time, but that Devitt alone was
champion. The American team appealed. It was thrown out, but the incident had shaken the
sport to its core. The Olympic Committee decided to replace those fallible
humans with electronic sensors. By 1968, stopwatches and judges were a thing of the past
in the pool. And 40 years later, the greatest Olympic swimmer
of all time was very grateful for that. In 2008, US swimmer Michael
Phelps was on course for the best
Olympic Games performance ever achieved by an individual. He was going for a seventh
gold medal of the Games in the 100 metres butterfly. Standing in the way was
Serbia’s Milorad Cavic, who was not interested
in the Phelps fairy tale. And is it Cavic or Phelps? It’s too close to call. It’s Phelps by one
one-hundredth of a second. Gold medal number seven. Phelps went on to win
eight gold medals in Beijing, breaking Mark Spitz’s record. It was one of the greatest
Olympic Games stories ever written, and perhaps
that story owes a credit to John Devitt and Lance
Larson. Neither man would return
to the Olympic Games, but the legacy of
their famous race lives on.

79 thoughts on “The Race That Changed Olympic Swimming | Strangest Moments”

  1. Hi everyone, we had to make changes to the previous upload, therefore the re-upload. But don't worry we'll have many new stories coming up, also for swimming.

  2. по сути они оба победили и первая пара пловцов и вторая.а все эти тысячные сотые..до паранойи доходит.

  3. Why wouldn’t they just give both of them Gold? Like they did a couple of days ago in the winter olympics even though Marit Bjoergen was one hundreds of a secound before her opponent they got one bronze medal each

  4. So Larson had the better time on the stopwatches, the judges couldn't decide, then someone gave them the same time but decided that only Devitt should win Gold? Who wasn't ahead on any of the deciding means they used? On what grounds?
    Seriously, Larson should've sued them. They fucked him over big time.

  5. That was some BS! Both men raced equally well, dude got jipped! Both earn sharing that 1st place honestly!!!

  6. Judges still ruined races when I swam in the 80s ! They where always from other clubs & you would be disqualified for things you hadn't done ! Or touch judges picked own club members over other teams ! At 15 yrs old I'd seen enough & got out of an unfair sport. This was happening here in the uk . Still does to a certain extent!

  7. No goggles in '60, which also limited practice time; one's eyes could only take so much chlorinated water! By '68 they were standard fare, as were longer practices—times fell. In '08 Cavic and Phelps were experienced, seasoned swimmers and knew what it took to hit the touchpad and record one's time at the end of the last lap, so the idea that Cavic touched first but not hard enough is vacuous. Age group practice includes techniques to finish properly!

  8. Cavic won that race,on video and underwater footage it is clearly shown that he touched the wall first,but Phelps sponsor(omega) said he didn't touch it strong enough what a joke

  9. That decision in 1960 Olympics is so unfair. Larson is the winner. 2 out of the 3 stopwatch indicated that Larson have 10 sec faster than Devitt. That’s the rule, what they will disregard it? That is not right.

  10. Čavić beat Phelps, and should have gotten the gold medal. But Čavić is Serbian, and Phelps is American…

  11. so in the first round 2 chose devit and 1 chose larson and then in the second round the same thing and then they added that together and got 3 and 3 somehow lmao

  12. Michael Phelps total medals=28 having gold=24 and and India also has 28 medals in Olympics having 9 gold only.

  13. I still don’t understand how they ended up giving Devitt the gold. The only measure they used back then that showed Devitt won was that two of the judges awarding gold thought he’d won. But two of the judges awarding silver thought Devitt was second. So that metric feels like a wash. At minimum it’s inconclusive and arbitrary. So how do you justify having the chief judge step in and give Devitt the gold? Based on what? At least if they’d given Larson the gold you could argue that there was some concrete evidence he’d won. There’s nothing shown here indicating Devitt won. It just feels so unfair. Larson was probably cheated out of a win and Devitt’s title is forever tarnished by this mess. Sheesh

  14. proud to say im john devitts grandson and my grandfather is the most humble and honest people to ever grace thethe olympics ive heard this story many times and the actual story differs a bit but thats pretty much accurate my grandfather finnished first with the confusion of what happened has alot to do with the touch of the wall by devitt was under water and abit hard to see but i know 100% if he was second he would have giving up his gold but thats why the gold was given to devitt he gave his life to the sport and to the olympics his my hero

  15. Man, that was brutal for Larson. Wish the Olympics would rectify this, as it looks pretty clear Larson touched first, and the rules were ignored, with the timer ultimately supposed to decide the winner in the case of a tie by the judges. Larson did get a gold in 1960 as part of the men's relay team, at least.

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