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September 16, 1960 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1960-09-16

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.. ..


Olympic Champion Swimmer
Joan Spillane Enters Michigan

SNI1GHT of the Michigan Swim Gala Day is by definition a
happy occasion for local swim enthusiasts, but this was not so
ate on the night of December 5, 1959 as diver Bob Webster lay under
heayasedation in Universlty Hospital.h
Hours before Webster, to the horror of 2,000 Michigan swim fans,
hadplunged unconscious into Varsity Pool after lacerating his scalp
r on the underside of the three meter board.
Few of the spectators (a number o whom have permanently lost
their interest in diving as a spectator sport as a result) ever expected
tor sleeWebster dive "again.
Webster, a carefree madcap, spelled those doubts as he was
canied from the pool to a waiting ambulance muttering, "I think I'm
going to have to practice that dive some more."
Such accidents are all part of the game to divers, who are ac-
#used by swimmers of being soft in the head from hitting the water
so often, and less than a week later, Webster, his head covered with
* #rowr-like bandage, was nervously awaiting the doctor's okay to
return to practice.
Now, nine months later, Bob Webster has established himself
as the world's number one platform diver as symbolized by the Olym-
pic Gold Medal which he earned at Rome earlier this month.
Although Webster's comeback may have surprised many of the
.-spetators at thle Gala last December who thought he was permanent-
ly maimed, it was, by his own admission, somewhat short of sensa-
Accidents do happen and many divers have recovered from them
to achieve great heights in the past. There is more to the Bob Webster
story than just a comeback from an injury.
A native of Santa Ana, Calif., and a pupil of two-time Olympic
champion pr. Sammy Lee, Webster came to Michigan to gain the
benefit of the tutelage of another Olympic champion, the late Bruce
Harlan, who had also recently migrated from California.
ybr two years Webster dove for Harlan in the winter (although
never in varsity competition) aid Lee in the summer. Gaining from
the expert guidance of two of the world's greatest divers and coaches
he progressed ,rapidly.
Webster's stock began to rise last summer, when he made the
United States three-meter diving squad in the Pan-American Games
and eventually gained e third place bronze medal.
Daring this past winter, Webster won the Big Ten three-meter
championship as he up'set the great Sam Hall of Ohio State and
Michigan teammate, Joe Gerlach.
Webster then faltered. in the NCAA meet as he finished no high-
er than fourth. This disappointing performance led him to make a
decision which may have been or primary importance to his ensuing
Olympic victory.
SWIMMING, diving, track and other individual sports are in many
instances decided by more than just physical prowess. The man who
is "up" for an event, or hs some other psychological edge on' his
competition, is always the man to beat.
For some competitors, getting 'up' is an easy matter. The mere
- fact of impending competition and the desire to win is often enough
to inspire a performer. Like many other athletes Webster feels that
this is true in his case. However the conclusion of competition has an
iadverse effect on him. "After I finish competing in a meet I go flat
and I just can't get 'up' for a long time."
With this as rationale for his showing at the NCAA meet, Webster
planned his summer progran accordingly. The chief strategy, avoid
competing in the AAU championships and small meets and start
thinking about the one meet that counts, the Olympic Trials, which
followed a week after the AAU's..
Under summer Coach Lee's careful guidance, Webster began his
drive toward Rome. He picked his spots carefully and tested himself in
the Southern Pacific AAU Invitational Championships in Los Angeles,
the last week in June.
He finished second in both platform and three-meter events, as
Gary Tobian exhibited the form which was to net him both a gold
and a silver medal in Rome.
OVER a month later, as he left for Detroit and the Trials, Webster
felt that Tobian was the man to beat on the platform and Hall on
the three-meter board. However, he also was confident that he could
earn one. of the two places in either event and could top Hall and
At the Trials he started slowly at three meters and finally finish-
ed fifth as Hall and Tobian finished one-two. On the platform he
came to life and with three brilliantly executed final dives nosed out
Tobian for first place and won his ticket to Rome.
Webster had picked his spots and his strategy paid off-just as
it was to do two weeks later, this time in Rome and with higher
At the beginning the Olympic platform competition Webster was
rated as co-favoite with Tobian. At the end of the first four dives,
the preliminaries, Toban stood at the top with Webster seemingly
out of contention in ninth place. Had he been unable to get "up" for
the Olympics?
On the next three dives Webster moved steadily past the opposi-
tion and at the end of the semi-finals he trailed only Toban and
England's Brian Phelps.
Webster's three dives in the finals ended all doubts about
whether he was "up" or not. American television viewers as well as
the fans in Rome were treated to the sight of these near perfect
dives which netted Webster the gold medal, by less than a one half
point victory over Tobian
After the competition, it became apparent why Webster had
been in ninth place early and how his strategy had paid off with a
In big meets, many divers prefer to do their most difficult
dives first. They do this to build-up points to qualify for the finals

and because many of them find it is easier to do the hard dives be-
fore the finals where the pressure can easily upset their equalibrium.
In Rome, Webster turned the tables and did only what a champ
pion does, saved the hardest for last. He felt that he could earn
enough points on his easier dives to gain the finals and that he would
gain a psychological edge by doing ris difficult dives at the same tithe
his opponents were doing easier tasks.
In the end, this strategy proved decisive. Diving brilliantly, he
gained the lead on the ninth and next-to-last dive. On his tenth, an
inward two-and one half sommersault, he gained near perfect
scores and pushed himself to the lead where Tobian and Phelps could
only reach him by performing absolutely perfect dives.
No such thing as a perfect human or diver exists and Webster
gained his victory. A competition-shy diver had won in the face of
the world's stiffest competition.

Swimming the first leg of a
winning effort in the 400-meterj
freestyle relay in Rome, was
Olympc Gold Medal winner Joan
Spillane of Houston, Texas, an1
entering freshman at Michigan
this fall.
Miss Spilane swam against Aus-
tralia's Dawn Fraser, Olympic
Champion in the 100-meter free-
style, and .was barely nosed out
by the world's fastest woman free-
styler. She actually did better'
against Miss Fraser than team-
mate Chris Von Saltza, who swam
the anchor leg of the relay.
Miss Von Satlza had lost to
Miss Fraser in the 100, her only
defeat, as she captured 3 Gold
Medals in the Games, including
two relaytriumphs and the 400-
meter freestyle.
Starts Record Performance
But Miss Spillane started the
U.S. squad of Nancy Wood, Shirley
Stobbs, and Miss Von Saltza on
the way to an Olympic and World
record with her strong perform-
The Houston lass started her
rise to fame last year at Chicago,
when she came "out of nowhere"
to finish second to Miss Von Saltza
in the 100-meter freestyle, and
took third in the 200.
She followed up last April by
Win Medals
(Continued from Page 1)

winning the 100 and 250 yard free-I
style events at Bartlesville, Okla.'
in the Women's Nationals. Her'
times were 0:56.9 and 2.40.3 re-
spectively. Miss Spillane capped
her performance at Bartlesville,
by swimming a fantastic 0:55.2
100-yard anchor leg in the 400-
yard freestyle relay.
This time is the World's fast-
est 100 yards, but cannot be con-
sidered a World record since it
was in a relay race and not from
a gun start.
Holds Own Records
However, Miss Spillane does'
hold some National AAU outdoor
"age group" records at 110. 220,
and 440 yards. The reason for
these distances is that the outdoor
pools are 55 yards long, or 50
meters, the Olympic distance.

The Michigan frosh set these
records before passing out of the
17 and under age group, in a na-
tion-wide program patterned after
Little League baseball. There are
now 800,000 teen-age swimmers!
involved, including 500,000 girls,
which helps to account for the fine
U.S. showing in this year's Olym-
"Miss Spilane came to Michigan
for two fairly obvious reasons,"I
said Buck Dawson, manager of the
Michigan Girls Swim Club.
'First of all, she is a fine stu-
dent, and was impressed with Mi-
chigan's academic record, espe-
cially in the math department.
Secondly, she will add to what is
already one of the finest group of
women college swimmers in the

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on the United States team that
won the 800 meter title in world
record time.
Competing for Finland, former
Michigan star Eeles Landstrom
finished a surprising third in the
pole vault event. The Flying Finn,
who graduated a year ago last
June, vaulted 15' 11'" to finish
behind American competitors Don
Bragg and Ron Morris.
Also competing for Finland was
Karri Kayhko, a freestyler who at-
tended Michigan for a short per-
Big Ten Champ
Representing the Bahamas was
Wolverine sprinter Tom Robinson,
who was the Big Ten's number
one sprinter last year. Competing
against the best in the world, the
Michigan star made into the semi-
finals of both the 100 and 200
meter dashes, but failed to qualify
for other of the six man finals.
Three Wolverines athletes were
on the Canadian Olympic team.
Diver Ernie Meissner qualified in-
to the finals of the 3 meter spring
board diving event, Ergas Leps
made it through several prelimi-
nary races in the 400 meter run
before failing to qualify for the
semi-finals, and Richard Mont-
petit represented Canada in sev-
eral gymnastic events.
Mexico's representation at the
Games . included the Gaxiola
brothers-Alvardo and Alfred-
both of whom have competed for
Michigan. Alvardo was the more
successful of the two, finishing in
the top'six in the 3 meter spring-
board diving event, while Alfred
failed to advance very far in the
100 meter backstroke event.
Also touring Europe for the next
month or so will be Michigan
swimming Coach Gus Stager, who
handled the successful United
States swim team in Rome.


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