Senior Olympians Break Barriers
Boo Morcom is one of a growing number of athletes still setting records and winning medals. SPORTS: MASTERS EVENTS
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Another memorable moment came years later, when, as a college sophomore he won the Amateur Athletic Union's national indoor championship at New York's Madison Square Garden.Skip to next paragraph
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``It was so electrifying,'' he says. ``I almost mean that literally; I felt as though I'd stepped on a wire. It was like a coronation - and something they can never take away from you.''
And then there was London 1948, the first Olympics since the prewar Games at Berlin in 1936.
``Walking into the Olympic Stadium was overwhelming,'' he says. ``Hearing those people go bananas. Walking behind the American flag....''
Based on his 1942 national title, it's a reasonable assumption that 1944 would have been Morcom's peak Olympic year, but World War II intervened. Still, after military service during and after the war, he remained one of the favorites in 1948, and in fact won the US Olympic trials ahead of Richards and Guinn Smith. But at the Games it was a different story.
``It was a cold, rainy, muddy day,'' he recalls. ``I passed a height, and had to wait about two hours. By then I was a blue icicle. Also, my style was to hold high on the pole and run fast, so in the mud I was at a disadvantage compared to slower and more gymnastic vaulters.''
Guinn wound up with the gold medal, Richards got a bronze, and Morcom was sixth.
``I was disappointed, of course,'' he says. ``Not so much for myself, but for the people back home. I wished I had done it for Braintree. And you didn't get another chance then. Today, these pro athletes can compete in three or four Olympics, but back then it was one and `Goodbye. Gotta go to work.'''
Richards was an exception. A minister, he was able to combine his calling with his athletic career, staying around long enough to win the gold in both 1952 and 1956 and establish himself as one of the sport's all-time greats.
BUT that was then, as they say, and this is now. ``He's five years younger than I am, but I still beat him, even up,'' Morcom notes.
Boo coached at the University of Pennsylvania from 1949 to 1962, and one of his pet projects in those days was the upgrading of women's track and field, culminating in his being the US women's field coach for the 1956 Olympics.
``I've been to the Games as an athlete, a coach, and a spectator,'' he points out. ``And without doubt, the best way to go is as a coach. When you're an athlete, your stomach is full of hot coals. The pressure is tremendous. ... But as a coach, you're into everything, part of everything - but without that terrible, terrible anxiety.''
Boo still has goals he hopes to reach: On the recent day when he set those three world records in succession, he then had the bar raised to 12-1 - which for age 68, according to the computerized curve used to measure these things, would have been the equivalent of a 20-foot vault by an athlete in his prime. He missed on this occasion, but remains optimistic that he'll make it one day.
Boo, who has three children and 14 grandchildren, has coached high school and junior high track and field for the last 15 years or so while also pursuing his avocations of art and antiques. Meanwhile he keeps on competing, traveling around the country to some 35 meets a year. And while he may not soar as high as he once did, he still displays the form of those glory days. And he still has the pride:
``When I vault, I still want everybody out there to stop and watch me,'' he says.