|Full name||Peter George Norman|
|Born||15 June 1942|
Coburg, Victoria, Australia
|Died||3 October 2006 (aged 64)|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Height||1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|Weight||73 kg (161 lb)|
|Club||East Melbourne Harriers|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||20.06 s (200 m, 1968)|
Peter George Norman (15 June 1942 – 3 October 2006) was an Australian track athlete. He won the silver medal in the 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, with a time of 20.06 seconds. This remains an Oceanian record. He was a five-time national 200-metres champion.
Norman is probably best known as the third athlete pictured in the famous 1968 Olympics Black Power salute photograph, which occurred during the medal ceremony for the 200-metre event. He wore a badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights in support of fellow athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Norman was not selected for the 1972 Summer Olympics, and retired from the sport soon after.
Life and career
Norman grew up in a devout Salvation Army family living in Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria. Initially an apprentice butcher, Norman later became a teacher, and worked for the Victorian Department of Sport and Recreation towards the end of his life.
1968 Summer Olympics
The 200 metres event at the 1968 Olympics started on 15 October and finished on 16 October; Norman won his heat in a time of 20.17 seconds, which was briefly an Olympic record. He won his quarter-final and was second in the semi-final.
On the morning of 16 October, US athlete Tommie Smith won the 200-metre final with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Norman finished second in a time of 20.06 s, after catching and eventually passing U.S. athlete John Carlos at the finish line. Carlos finished in third place in 20.10 s. Norman's time was his all-time personal best and an Oceanian record that still stands.
After the race, the three athletes went to the medal podium for their medals to be presented by David Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter. On the podium, during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner", Smith and Carlos famously joined in a Black Power salute. This salute was later described in Tommie Smith's autobiography as a human rights salute, not a Black Power salute.
Norman wore a badge on the podium in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). After the final, Carlos and Smith had told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. As journalist Martin Flanagan wrote: "They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, said he believed strongly in God. We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, 'I'll stand with you'. Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes. He didn't; 'I saw love.'" On the way to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the OPHR badge being worn by Paul Hoffman, a white member of the US rowing team, and asked him if he could wear it. It was Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair at the Olympic Village. This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left.
Treatment between 1968-1972
After the salute, it has been claimed that Norman's career suffered greatly. A 2012 CNN profile said that "he returned home to Australia a pariah, suffering unofficial sanction and ridicule as the Black Power salute's forgotten man. He never ran in the Olympics again." Commentators say he was not selected for the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 despite recording qualifying times, and was not welcomed even three decades later at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Carlos later stated that "If we [Carlos and Smith] were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone."
The Australian Olympic Committee maintains that Norman was not selected for the 1972 Olympics because he did not meet the selection standard which entailed an athlete equalling or bettering the Olympic qualifying standard (20.9) and performing creditably at the Australian Athletics Championships. Norman ran several qualifying times from 1969–1971 but he finished third in the 1972 Australian Athletics Championships behind Greg Lewis and Gary Eddy in a time of 21.6.
Contemporary reports show mixed opinion on whether Norman should have been sent to the Munich Olympics. After coming third in the trials, Norman commented: "All I had to do was to win, even in a slow time, and I think I would have been off to Munich". The Age correspondent wrote Norman "probably ran himself out of the team at the National titles"—but also noted he was injured—and continued, "If the selectors do the right thing, Norman should still be on the plane to Munich." On the other hand, Australasian Amateur Athletics' magazine stated "The dilemma for selectors here was how could they select Norman and not Lewis. Pity that Peter did not win because that would have been the only requirement for a Munich ticket".
Before the 1968 Olympics, Norman was a trainer for West Brunswick Australian rules football club as a way of keeping fit over winter during the athletic circuit's off season. After 1968 he played 67 games for West Brunswick from 1972 to 1977 before coaching an under 19 team in 1978.
In 1985, Norman contracted gangrene after tearing his Achilles tendon during a charity race, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression, heavy drinking and pain killer addiction followed.
Norman died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64. The US Track and Field Federation proclaimed 9 October 2006, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman Day. Thirty-eight years after the three made history, both Smith and Carlos gave eulogies and were pallbearers at Norman's funeral. At the time of his death, Norman was survived by his second wife, Jan, and their daughters Belinda and Emma, his first wife, Ruth, and children Gary, Sandra and Janita and four grandchildren.
|1962||Commonwealth Games||Perth, Western Australia||6th S/F 1 ; 12/43||220 yards||21.8(22.03)(−2.8)|
|1966||Commonwealth Games||Kingston, Jamaica||6th Q/F ; 29/54||100 yards||10.2(10.27)(−5.0)|
|6th S/F 1 ; 10/56||220 yards||21.2(0.0)|
|1968||Olympic Games||Mexico City, Mexico||2nd||200 m||20.0 (20.06)(+0.9)|
|1969||Pacific Conference Games||Tokyo, Japan||4th||100 m||10.8(−0.1)|
|1st||4 × 100 m||40.8|
|1970||Commonwealth Games||Edinburgh, Scotland||5th||200 m||20.86(+1.7)|
|DNF Heat1 ; 14th||4 × 100 m||Dropped baton|
|1965/66||Australian Championships||Perth, Western Australia||1st||200 m||20.9 (−1.2)|
|1966/67||Australian Championships||Adelaide, South Australia||1st||200 m||21.3|
|1967/68||Australian Championships||Sydney, New South Wales||1st||200 m||20.5 (0.0)|
|1968/69||Australian Championships||Melbourne, Victoria||2nd||100 m||10.6 (−0.5)|
|1st||200 m||21.3 (−3.1)|
|1969/70||Australian Championships||Adelaide, South Australia||1st||200 m||21.0 (−2.1)|
|1971/72||Australian Championships||Perth, Western Australia||3rd||200 m||21.6|
Later in life, Norman received a number of honours from Australian sport bodies, including:
- 1999 – Sport Australia Hall of Fame inductee
- 2000 – Australian Sports Medal
- 2010 – Athletics Australia Hall of Fame inductee
- 2018 – Order of Merit from Australian Olympic Committee
For his involvement as an ally in the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute protest, he has appeared in many works of public art, as well as movies on the subject.
- An airbrush mural of the trio on podium was painted in 2000 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney.[a] Silvio Offria, who allowed an artist known only as "Donald" to paint the mural on his house in Leamington Lane, said that Norman came to see the mural, "He came and had his photo taken, he was very happy." The monochrome tribute, captioned "THREE PROUD PEOPLE MEXICO 68", was under threat of demolition in 2010 to make way for a rail tunnel but is now listed as an item of heritage significance.
- On 17 October 2003, San Jose State University unveiled a statue commemorating the 1968 Olympic protest; Norman was not included as part of the statue itself, as he insisted that his place be left unoccupied so that others viewing the statue could "take a stand" against racism; however, he was invited to deliver a speech at the ceremony.
- Norman's nephew, Matt Norman, directed, produced, and wrote the documentary film Salute (2008), about him and his role in the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute. Paul Byrnes, in his Sydney Morning Herald review of Salute, said that the documentary makes it clear why Norman stood with the other two athletes. Byrnes writes, "He was a devout Christian, raised in the Salvation Army [and] believed passionately in equality for all, regardless of colour, creed or religion—the Olympic code". In October 2018, Matt Norman with the help of journalist Andrew Webster released his uncle's official biography The Peter Norman Story.
- In September 2016, a statue of Norman on the 1968 medal podium with Smith and Carlos was unveiled at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
- Athletics Australia in partnership with the Victorian Government announced the building and erecting a bronze statue of Norman at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne. The statue will honour Norman's legacy as an athlete and advocate for human rights. They will also enshrine 9 October as Peter Norman Day within their organisation. It was unveiled on 9 October 2019 at the Albert Park athletics track, Melbourne.
In August 2012, the Australian House of Representatives debated a motion to provide a posthumous apology to Norman. The chamber passed an official apology motion on 11 October 2012, which read:
15 PETER NORMAN
The order of the day having been read for the resumption of the debate on the motion of Dr Leigh— That this House:
(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the 'black power' salute;
(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the treatment he received upon his return to Australia, and the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006; and
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.
The original plan for the apology had point (3) state that the House: 'apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying'. This acknowledgement of a punitive reaction by Australia to his support of Smith and Carlos was omitted from the final apology.
In a 2012 interview, Carlos said:
There's no-one in the nation of Australia that should be honoured, recognised, appreciated more than Peter Norman for his humanitarian concerns, his character, his strength and his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice.
After the parliamentary apology, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and others disputed the claims made about Norman being ostracised for supporting Carlos and Smith. The AOC made the following comments:
- Norman was not punished by the AOC. He was cautioned by Chef de Mission Judy Patching on the evening of the medal ceremony and then given as many tickets as he wanted to go and watch a field hockey match.
- Norman was not selected for the 1972 Munich Olympics, as he did not meet the selection standard which entailed an athlete equalling or bettering the Olympic qualifying standard (20.9) and performing creditably at the Australian Athletics Championships. Norman ran several qualifying times from 1969–1971 but he finished third in the 1972 Australian Athletics Championships behind Greg Lewis and Gary Eddy in a time of 21.6.
- In the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the AOC stated "Norman was involved in numerous Olympic events in his home city of Melbourne. He announced several teams for the AOC in Melbourne and was on the stage in his Mexico 1968 blazer congratulating athletes. He was acknowledged as an Olympian and the AOC valued his contribution." Due to cost considerations, the AOC did not have the resources to bring all Australian Olympians to Sydney, and Norman was offered the same chance to buy tickets as other Australian Olympians. However, the United States invited him to participate and take part in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when they heard that his own country had failed to do so.
The AOC did not believe that Norman was owed an apology.
In 2018, the AOC awarded Norman posthumously the Order of Merit for his involvement of the 1968 protest, with AOC President John Coates stating "I'm absolutely certain from all the history I've read that we didn't do the wrong thing by him. But I absolutely think we've been negligent in not recognising the role he played back then."
- Mural at 39, Pine Street, Newtown, New South Wales, Australia.
- Peter Norman Archived 24 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine. sports-reference.com
- Carlson 2006
- Associated Press 2006
- Frost 2008
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- Hawker 2008
- Irwin 2012
- Athletics at the 1968 Ciudad de México Summer Games: Men's 200 metres Archived 16 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine. sports-reference.com
- New Scientist 1981, p. 285
- Flanagan 2006
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- Montague, James. "The third man: The forgotten Black Power hero". CNN. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
- Georgakis, Steve. "'I will stand with you': finally, an apology to Peter Norman". Archived from the original on 3 April 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
- Vincent, Donovan (7 August 2016). "The forgotten story behind the 'black power' photo from 1968 Olympics". Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017 – via Toronto Star.
- "Divided by their colour, united by the cause". 1 August 2016. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
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- "A sprint hope who ran foul of Olympic starters gun". National Times (3–8 April 1972 p.28).
- Messenger, Robert (24 August 2012). "Leigh sprints into wrong lane over Norman". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "Peter may have lost team place" (PDF). The Age. 27 March 1972. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
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- "Peter Norman Statue to be built". Athletics Australia website. Archived from the original on 9 October 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- Ramsak, Bob (9 October 2019). "Statue honouring Australian Olympian Peter Norman unveiled in Melbourne". World Athletics. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
- The Daily Telegraph 2012
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- Whiteman 2012 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFWhiteman2012 (help)
- Parliament of Australia 2012, p. 1865
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- Carlos & Eastley 2012
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- City of Sydney (October 2010). "Heritage Assessment of the Three Proud People mural" (PDF). City of Sydney. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
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- Johnstone, Damian; Norman, Matt T. (2008). A Race to Remember: The Peter Norman Story (2008 ed.). JoJo Publishing. ISBN 9780980495027. - Total pages: 320
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