07/09/2020   "Amarcord": Don Thompson 60 years ago won the 50km of the Olympic Games in Rome




Today is the 60th anniversary of the 50km road walk of the Olympic Games in Rome which took place on 7 September 1960.


1. Don THOMPSON (GBR) 4:25:30.0 OR 
2. John LJUNGGREN (SWE) 4:25:47.0 
3. Abdon PAMICH (ITA) 4:27:55.4 
4. Alexsandr SHCHERBINA (URS) 4:31:44.0 (UKR) 
5. Tom MISSON (GBR) 4:33:03.0 
6. Alex OAKLEY (CAN) 4:33:08.6 
7. Giuseppe DORDONI (ITA) 4:33:28.8 
8. Zora SINGH (IND) 4:37:45.0 


Split times each 10km


Thompson: 10 Km. 51:39 

20 Km. 1:43:36 

30 Km. 2:37:31 

40 Km. 3:31:40 


Ljunggren: 10 Km. 52:30 

20 Km. 1:44:45 

30 Km. 2:38:05 

40 Km. 3:31:46 


Pamich: 10 Km. 53:07 

20 Km. 1:46:19 

30 Km. 2:40:51 

40 Km. 3:33:40 


Shcherbina:10 Km. - 

20 Km. 1:44:36 

30 Km. 2:38:29 

40 Km. 3:33:46 


Misson: 10 Km. - 

20 Km. - 

30 Km. 2:43:29 

40 Km. 3:37:25 


Oakley: 10 Km. 52.35 

20 Km. 1:46:19 

30 Km. 2:41:21 

40 Km. 3:37:23 


Dordoni:10 Km. 53:41 

20 Km. - 

30 Km. - 

40 Km. - 


Singh: 10 Km. 51:24 

20 Km. 1:43:28 

30 Km. 2:41:18 

40 Km. 3:37:31 




Highlight of the race: click here





Starting athletes were 39, coming from 20 countries.
Only this race in Rome can count the presence, at the start, of 5 Olympic champions of five consecutive editions of the games from 1948 to 1964.
The route was a long go (25km) and back.
From the Olympic stadium you traveled along the Lungotevere Maresciallo Cadorna, della Vittoria, Oberdan, delle Armi, Michelangelo Mellini, Castello, Gianicolense, Farnesina, Sanzio, Anguillara and Ripa) and then, after crossing the Tiber at Ponte Marconi, you continued on the Via del Mare up to Acilia from where it turned for the return through the same way.
Don Thompson had retired in 1956 in Melbourne in 1956 when he was in fifth position at the 45th Km.
It is said that he trained for the Rome Games by practicing in his bathroom with electric air conditioners at a temperature of 40° Celsius to simulate the conditions of Rome.
At the start the leaders were Zora Singh, the two Australians Noel Freeman and Ron Crawford and Georgiy Klimov (URS). Thompson and Norman Read were fifteen seconds ahead of them, while Pamich was just in ninth position.
Halfway through the race, the situation had changed radically. Freeman and Klimov had already been disqualified, Zora Singh and Ron Crawford had given up positions, with the result that Don Thompson was leading the race, followed at 1:37 by Ljunngren who in turn was pressed by the Soviet Shcherbina, while Pamich he was in seventh position at 3:14 from the English.
Between the 25th and 35th Km. The elderly Swedish walker (Ljunngren would have celebrated his 41st birthday two days later) made his maximum effort and managed to catch up and overtake Thompson by 4"; Shcherbina followed him at 1:04 and Pamich, who in the meantime had risen to fourth position, at 3:27.
The other walkers, with Oakely leading the pack, were over 5 minutes away.
Dordoni was 10th with a gap of 8 minutes.
At the 40th Km. Thompson returned to the lead of the race, even if only by 6”; Pamich in the meantime had overtaken Shcherbina also by 6".
Another 5 Km. of head to head between the first two who marched a few meters away in a race that appeared dramatic and full of pathos: at 45Km. only 1" divided the British from the Swede, and Abdon Pamich had also made up for it below having reduced his gap to 1:18, but unfortunately his comeback would have been late.
After the 45th Km. Thompson forced further the pace and managed to distance the elderly rival by 17" at the finish, while Pamich, who had given way a little in the last kilometers, won the bronze with 2: 25.4 behind the winner.
The Soviet Shcherbina was fourth with more than 6 minutes behind the winner.
Giuseppe Dordoni, with a courageous and beautiful second part of the race, managed to finish in seventh position.
The third of the Italians was Antonio De Gaetano, who passed away this year a few days before the start of the Osaka World Championships, who finished in 10th position more than 15 minutes behind the winner.
Of the 39 athletes who started, five retired, while six were disqualified.
The Roman public was the real protagonist; he tried in every way to encourage Pamich, it seemed as if he wanted to push him towards that Olympic success that only four years later he would finally reach.