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1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

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  • 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

    We all know Milt won the '56 decathlon over an injured Rafer Johnson with Kuznetsov finishing 3rd. How would a healthy Rafer and a still active Mathias done in '56?? (Remember, Mathias would have been only 26)

  • #2
    Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

    time to do a little research when i get home. Believe Johnson had a bad knee.... how far did he jump in the Dec LJ ? And am I imagining it or did he also finish 3rd in the FOT in the LJ, behind Bell and Bennett.... and then if so did he compete in the reg LJ in Melbourne ?

    Time to hit the old volumes tonight... but I bet Garry or someone will beat me to it !

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    • #3
      Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

      I believe Rafer Johnson was the greatest decathlete of all time. Had Mathias competed in Melbourne Johnson would have beaten him, had he been healthy. The question is would Mathias have beaten Campbell. I am far from sure. Johnson had torn stomach muscles and a bad knee in Melbourne and did not compete in the Long Jump but he was on the team. Milton Campbell is not to be overlooked. I don't think he got close to his potential in the Deca. In '57 he set a w-rec 13.4 in the 120. I suppose I rank Mathias ahead of Campbell but during a couple of seasons during those days there was a feeling that Johnson could do almost anything. He had a 10.4 or a 10.5 100m and he came a close second to Lee Calhoun in the High Hurdles one year in the N.C.A.A. I dont't consider him healthy in Rome in 1960 yet he compensated by being an excellent thrower and beat Yang in one of the most exciting Decas of all time.

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      • #4
        Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

        With 3 years of little competition nor training, Bob nevertheless competed in the 1956 inter-service championships in Los Angeles, he scored 7193 points, without running a 1500. Could an in-shape Mathias broken 8000 at the '56 Games ??

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        • #5
          Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

          well I looked the '56 OG meet up..... Johnson scratched from the LJ, then later in the week only beat Campbell by 4 points in the Dec. LJ. It was a bad pit ( read article on Bell's win in LJ ) and Johnson and Campbell both jumped right at 24 feet. Without a 1956 decath. scoring table I could not calculate how much farther Rafer would have needed to jump to have won.

          But Campbell was a great athlete and a worthy champion.

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          • #6
            Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

            Let me add a tale to this stew. A few years ago, Visa invited all of the living US decathlon OG gold medalists to some kind of event held in conjunction with the Penn Relays. Mathias, Rafer, Milt, Toomey, Jenner, Dan O'B. All of them showed up except one (and I don't remember which one) and there was a press conference that I attended. Somebody asked them all to comment on who would win a hypothetical competition among them, with each in his prime. All but one of them gave a cautious and respectful answer, pointing out in various ways how difficult it was to compare athletes of different eras, with changing tracks, implements, shoes, training methods, etc. One of them, however, asserted energetically and unequivocally that he would have beaten all of these guys every time. His self-confidence was just awesome. We all came away thinking that although none of us would have put him at the top of the list, somehow Milt Campbell would have indeed beaten them all.

            In retrospect, it must be observed that Campbell has been making his living recently as a motivational speaker--and people who have seen him say he's a very good one. It is not surprising that he exudes confidence. It's what he sells. But nobody wins an Olympic decathlon gold without an incredible fire in his belly. When these men were in their prime, they all must have had it. In retirement, the competitive juices sometimes don't flow the way they once did. Obviously, Campbell's still do.

            That doesn't answer the unanswerable question, but I must say that I wouldn't argue against anyone who says that Campbell would have won no matter who was healthy and competing at the time.

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            • #7
              Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

              Based on hearing him speak, I'm convinced that Steve Wacaser would have won a decathlon/100m freestyle/parallel bars triple at Munich in '72.

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              • #8
                Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                ok, I will bite..... who is Steve Wacaser ??!!

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                • #9
                  Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                  OK, serious answer (sorry, but I couldn't resist yanking Bob's chain), based solely on "feel" as there's no real science that can be invoked: 1. Johnson; 2. Campbell; 3. Mathias.

                  Not that it's completely relevant, but note how they rate in individual World Rankings terms. Interestingly, the common denominator is the 110H, where all ranked. That's Campbell's only individual event, but he ranked four times and was even No. 1 in the world.

                  Johnson and Matthias each ranked once in the hurdles and Johnson added an LJ ranking and Mathias a DT ranking.

                  I think Mathias rates higher in public perception than he should simply becuase of his "boy wonder" status in 1948, which makes him a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, which has nothing to do with ultimate talent. Mathias owes his '48 gold to Joe Stalin, since it was his policies which kept Heino Lipp gulaged, and away from the Games. For it was Lipp who was No. 1 in the T&FN World Rankings that year, not Mathias. Lipp had scores of 7584 and 7780, the latter a full 556 points than the American's best. Also have to remember that in 1948 many European athletes who should have been in their prime were either dead or living on subsistence diets. Mathias was in the right place at the right time.

                  Lest anyone think I'm somehow trashing Mathias, I hasten to say that I'm not. I spent some time with him in Stockholm a few years back and he's a wonderful guy. And he went on to become a legit WR holder. In fact, he set an NCAA feat that's unlikely to be matched: at the 1952 Nationals he scored in both the 110H (2nd) and DT (6th). And in '51 he had scored in the shot (6th). Incredible-incredible athlete, but still not as good as Johnson or Campbell.

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                  • #10
                    Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                    I repeat, who is Steve Wacaser ??!!

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                    • #11
                      Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                      >Mathias owes
                      >his '48 gold to Joe Stalin, since it was his
                      >policies which kept Heino Lipp gulaged, and away
                      >from the Games.

                      Probably true that Lipp, an Estonian I guess, would not have been allowed to compete outside the Soviet Union, but he wasn't singled out: there were no Soviet athletes at the 1948 Olympics.

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                      • #12
                        Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                        3rd request to Garry: Who is Steve Wacaser ??!!

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                        • #13
                          Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                          >3rd request to Garry: Who is Steve Wacaser ??!!<

                          If he told you, he'd have to kill you.

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                          • #14
                            Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                            In this day and age I was going to chide you (since you know your way around the Net well enough to get here) for not simply Googling for him, but that wouldn't help, becuase all the good references, it turns out, are under Stephen.

                            But I'll save you some time. The following is part of a column from cbs.sportsline.com from a couple of years back:

                            <<Talent scout Stephen Wacaser, whose recruiting service Assists, Loose Balls and Turnovers, was subscribed to by almost every Division I program and most NBA teams, has run into legal trouble again. The Springfield, Ill., native, who has battled a gambling addiction and a checkered past to emerge as a well-respected scout of prep and junior college talent, turned himself into the FBI last week. He faces federal charges of bank robbery in the April holdup of a downtown Pensacola, Fla., bank. Wacaser, 49, who was often hired by colleges to lecture players about the 39 months he spent in prison in the early 1990s, faces up to 20 years in prison term if convicted. He was charged last year with robbing a hotel cashier in Illinois.>>

                            And to think, I let this guy house-sit my place for two weeks when I left for the '72 Olympics!!! He's a clear winner of the who's-the-most-interesting-T&FN-employee-of-all-time contest.

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                            • #15
                              Re: 1956: Rafer, Milt or Mathias

                              curiosity kills the cat.... end of this inquiry !! thank you.....

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