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THE FIFTEENTH OF JUNE ISN'T 'PETER NORMAN DAY'. PERHAPS IT SHOULD BE.


Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Olympics

'LEAVE THE SPOT WHERE I STOOD OPEN, SO THAT OTHERS CAN STAND WITH YOU'


Peter Norman was an Australian sprinter known for his significant role in the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico City. He competed in the 200-meter race and won the silver medal with a time of 20.06 seconds, which was an Australian record that still stands today.


Norman is perhaps best remembered for his involvement in a historic and iconic moment of protest during the medal ceremony. As he stood on the podium, he wore a human rights badge in solidarity with American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who famously raised their fists in a Black Power salute to protest racial discrimination and injustice in the United States.


This act of solidarity came at a personal cost to Norman. He faced ostracism and criticism in Australia for his support of Smith and Carlos. Despite his outstanding athletic achievements, Norman was not selected for the 1972 Olympics and was largely ignored by the Australian athletic community for many years.


OCTOBER 16, 2005, THE UNVEILING OF THE 'VICTORY SALUTE' STATUE

Peter Norman Australian Athlete

A statue depicting the iconic moment of protest 1968 was unveiled on October 16, 2005 at San José State University in California, where both Smith and Carlos were alumni and track athletes. The statue featured only Smith and Carlos standing on the podium. Peter Norman was not depicted in the statue.

 

Carlos insisted that Norman be honoured as well. He called Peter Norman immediately alerting Norman to the mistake and promised that this would be rectified. The ever-humble Norman responded with: 'Leave the spot where I stood open, so that others can stand with you'.

 

Each year thousands of people visit the statue and pay honour to all three athletes. Visitors are encouraged to stand in Norman's place to show their support for human rights, mirroring Norman's stance during the ceremony.

 

Peter Norman died of a heart attack on October 9, 2006. Both Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral, honouring his courage and the bond they had shared.


The U.S. Track and Field association had declared the day of his death to be “Peter Norman Day” – the first time in the organisation’s history that such an honour had been bestowed on a foreign athlete.


Perhaps a more fitting day to remember and celebrate the life of Peter Norman would be on his birthday, the 15th June.

 

Happy Peter Norman Day!

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