|Manhattan Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Remigino's Olympic Victory|
Manhattan College's Lindy Remigino (981) edges Jamaica's Herb McKenley (295) for the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Mac Bailey of Great Britain (166) won the bronze, and Dean Smith of the United States (982) was fourth.
This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of one of the closest races in Olympic history--the final of the men's 100 meters at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland. That race also produced one of the biggest Olympic upsets ever, as the gold medal went to Lindy Remigino, a modest 21-year-old Manhattan College junior from Hartford, Conn.
Remigino's victory in Helsinki was certainly unexpected. In fact, heading into the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, he was considered a long shot to even make the team. He had only finished fifth at the NCAA Championships two weeks earlier and didn't make the final at the AAU Championships (a major competition at the time). However, Remigino peaked at the right time. He won his qualifying heat, then took second in the final to earn an Olympic berth.
Remigino was impressive in pre-Olympic workouts once the team arrived in Helsinki, but he still wasn't considered a gold medal contender. The favorites were Art Bragg, who had won the U.S. Trials, world record-holder Mac Bailey of Great Britain, and Jamaica's Herb McKenley. Many experts felt that Remigino's medal chances were, at best, limited to an outside shot at the bronze.
"I won almost every trial run we had in practice, so I gained a lot of confidence," Remigino said. "Plus, I was only half a step behind Bragg at the Olympic Trials, and the Americans really dominated back then."
The competition got underway with first-round and quarterfinal heats on Sunday, July 20. Remigino easily won both of his races to move into the semifinals, which were scheduled for Monday, July 21. The first three finishers in each semifinal would move into the final that evening. Bailey won the first heat, while Bragg was eliminated after pulling a muscle and finishing last. The other two qualifiers were American Dean Smith and Vladimir Suhkaryev of the Soviet Union. McKenley just edged Remigino to win the second semifinal. John Trealor of Australia finished third to also qualify for the final.
"The semi and the final were only about an hour apart," Remigino remembered. "We had a dry track on the first day, but it rained all night and the track was wet for the semifinal. I ran two 10.4s on the first day, and McKenley beat me in the semifinal by just a few inches."
Remigino drew lane 3 for the final, with McKenley and Smith next to him on either side and Bailey in lane 5. Remigino got off to a good start and had an early lead, but the rest of the field quickly caught up to him.
"I wasn't nervous," he recalled. "I was used to running in front of a lot of people at Madison Square Garden.
"I got off to a good start and I had the lead by the 55-meter mark. I said to myself, 'I'm going to win this thing,' but I leaned too early. I leaned 25 meters from the finish and thought I blew it."
As they approached the finish, Remigino, McKenley, Bailey and Smith were all together, and the four crossed the line virtually simultaneously. Nobody in the stadium could tell who had won. The officials on the track pointed to McKenley as the winner, and Remigino even congratulated his Jamaican rival, but the results wouldn't be official until a review of the photo finish.
After nearly 20 minutes, the results finally appeared on the scoreboard: 1. Lindy Remigino, United States; 2. Herb McKenley, Jamaica; 3. Mac Bailey, Great Britain; 4. Dean Smith, United States. The top four finishers were all given the same time--10.4 seconds--but the photo revealed that Remigino's shoulder was the first thing across the line.
"Herb and I were very close," Remigino recalled. "I said to him, 'Herb, I think you won this thing,' but then they brought out the photo and showed us that I had won."
The race was so close that Remigino and the fourth-place Smith were separated by just 14 inches! In fact, adjusting the hand times to the fully automatic timing used today reveals that Remigino's winning time of 10.79 seconds was a mere .12 ahead of the sixth-place Trealor.
Six days later, Remigino was back on the track for the 4x100 meter relay. Running the third leg, he gave the United States a slight lead over the Soviet Union. Andy Stanfield, the 200-meter champion, extended that margin on the anchor leg and crossed the line first, giving Remigino his second gold medal of the Helsinki Games.
"We had a very strong relay team," Remigino said. "We had three Olympic champions.
"Dean Smith gave us a good lead. Harrison Dillard (the 1948 100-meter champion) and I had a bad pass on the second exchange, which made us about even with the Russians, but I quickly went back in front. As I handed the stick to Andy Stanfield, I gave him a little pat on the butt, and he went on to win by about two yards."
After the Olympics, Remigino continued to race throughout Europe. He won every 100 meters he entered during the European season and was ranked No. 1 in the world for 1952.
Remigino then returned to Manhattan for his senior season, and he helped the Jaspers defend their indoor and outdoor IC4A Championships in 1953. He ended his Manhattan career with nine individual IC4A medals, including three gold.Remigino attempted to make the Olympic team again for the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, but he didn't qualify in the 200 meters. One Jasper sprinter did make the trip to Melbourne, however. Lou Jones ran the first leg on the Americans' victorious 4x400 meter relay squad, giving Manhattan a gold medalist in back-to-back Olympics. Jones' gold medal from Melbourne and Remigino's two from Helsinki remain the only Olympic medals ever won by Manhattan College athletes.