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Ollan Cassell — September, 2019
Ollan Cassell ran the leadoff leg of the USA 1964 Olympic Gold Medal 4 x 400-meter relay team which set a World Record of 3:00.7 in Tokyo, Japan. He won AAU Championships at 220 yards in 1957 and 440 yards in 1965. At the 1963 Pan Am Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ollan was 200-meter Silver Medalist and a member of both the 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 400-meter Gold Medal relay teams. In 1962 at the World Military Championships, he won Gold Medals in the 400 meter and 4 × 400 meter relay and a Silver Medal in the 4 × 100 meter relay. Cassell served as Executive Director of the AAU, then The Athletics Congress and, finally, USATF. He was Vice-President of the International Amateur Athletics Federation from 1976 to 1999. Ollan raced collegiately for East Tennessee State and the University of Houston where he anchored relay teams to Texas Relays and Kansas Relays titles. He won Virginia State Championships at 100 yards and 220 yards for Appalachia High School in 1956. His personal best times include: 100 yards - 9.4; 200 meters - 20.8; 400 meters - 45.6 and 880 yards - 1:50.7. Ollan was inducted into the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2006. His 2015 book, ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus,’ is a behind-the scenes look at his competitive days and his many years at the helm of track and field in the United States. Cassell was an adjunct professor for Olympic Sports history at the University of Indianapolis and is President of the Indiana Olympian Association. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife, Cathy, of nearly sixty years. They have six children and eleven grandchildren. Ollan was extremely kind to spend over two hours on the telephone for this interview in the fall of 2019.
GCR: THE OVERVIEW Ollan, first, thank you so much for granting this in-depth interview. It's hard to believe that this year marks 55 years since you and your three relay teammates won the 1964 Olympic 4 x 400-meter relay in Tokyo, Japan. With five and a half decades of reflection, what does the Olympic race and victory mean to you?
OC It means a little bit more every year than it did in the beginning. When I received the Gold Medal, and I was in the Olympic Village with the other athletes, there were lots of athletes walking around with a Gold Medal. It seemed like to some people, the relay Gold Medal maybe wasn't as good as an individual Gold Medal, but to me, it was. It meant on that day that we were the best in the world. We were also running for each other, which felt very good. The relay is unique because your own training must come together with other teammates, who also bring their individual training. So, there is a special bond with your teammates. When we returned home, people viewed us a bit differently. It's a great feeling to know that they recognized the fact that at one time we were one of the best in the world. So, it means a great deal as we went into our occupations afterward. I taught school for several years, and I seemed to get more respect from that accomplishment. As I get older, it does mean more.
GCR: Not long after that Olympic year, you took a position with the AAU, in a few years became Executive Director and were in that leadership position with the AAU and its successors, The Athletics Congress and USA Track and Field until 1999. How rewarding was it to lead track and field in the United States and to work with global organizations to help move our sport forward?
OC It was gratifying, and it was something that I thought of in college. Then while I was in the military and running as an athlete, I thought I had learned a lot about what is going on in the sport and where things were, but not as much as I needed to know. I was placed in one of those positions after I was in the sport for a long, long time as an athlete. I had seen so many things that I believed needed to be corrected and had ideas where I could make changes. It gave me the feeling that I could be of service – not to the organization, but especially to athletes. At the time, the amateur rule was in effect, and I believed that if I ever got into a position to do something about that, I would really try to change it, which ultimately did happen. Those are the sort of things that I focused on or came upon me when I was in those positions. At the same time, when I was that young and full of vigor, there were a lot of people who knew a lot more about the Olympics than I did. I became the Track and Field Administrator for the A.A.U. in 1965, and by the time I reached the age of 34, I was the Executive Director of the A.A.U. I was in a position at that time to begin to think about how the sport could evolve, but it was not easy. The reason is that some of the athletes and others resented that a person so young had this position, and people began to take potshots and question decisions. Eventually, there was a point where I just decided that if I were doing the right thing, I would go ahead and do it. If people wanted to take potshots about decisions, regardless of whether they were good or bad, I focused on satisfying the majority versus any one individual (I was dealing with a nationwide organization). So, I kept going in that direction.
GCR: Your 2015 memoir, ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus,' has a myriad of behind-the-scenes details regarding the move from amateurism to professionalism amongst athletes, sponsorship deals and broadcasting rights, and power brokering between national and international track and field governing bodies and Olympic committees. What was your goal as you started working on this book and as it developed? How did the book change as you went through the researching and writing process, and was your goal achieved?
OC As to the final question of achieving my goal – I think I did achieve my goal. My goal was to create an accurate historical record of the changes and improvements in the sport, how they were made, and who were the active participants in those changes. Many friends and staff almost insisted that I write this book because there were so many events and changes not only in our sport but in the larger Olympic and international sports area that occurred during my time in leadership. The staff and team that I had were with me for decades, and they were undoubtedly influential in my decision to write a book. In my positions within international sports, I was able to influence and make so many things happen in different places in the world that it would make the book content worthwhile. So, what started as a historical record evolved into an outline of the history and changes in the sport, which then organically grew into a book. We thought we should put the historical information into context around major events, issues, and Olympics. As the book further developed, it also became a history of the new IAAF and international sports. There were also people claiming credit for changes in the sport, and I wanted to make sure there was an accurate record.
GCR: As I read ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus,' which I took to mean the five Olympic rings, and I read about the many, many negotiations and the deal-making in so many areas, I imagined the five rings representing the AAU and its successors, the NCAA, the U.S. Olympic Committee, the IAAF and the International Olympic Committee with the overlapping rings signifying jurisdictional areas of contention fighting for their standpoints. Is this a good synopsis of the reason for the title?
OC If we think about it that way, it could relate to the five rings in that regard. But the title also signifies that at times I felt like I was working in a circus because all the organizations you mentioned intersected on so many issues in the world of sports. There were many personalities to work with, and all the parties were interested in their own vantage point and how to get ‘mine.’ Also, I didn't focus too much on the NCAA because I thought if I got into the issue with the NCAA, it would drag the book down and we would never get to the end of it, and most importantly, I wanted to focus on what happened at the international level.
GCR: Ollan, in your position, as you wrote ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus,' did you feel like some combination of two circus performers, the juggler, and the tightrope walker?
OC (laughing) I knew it was difficult, but I never did relate to that concept. It could be looked at that way because if you are tightrope walking, you don't know if you are going to cross that rope. With a lot of the issues we were working on, I didn't know if they were going to work. I'd focus and work on them and have support for when I might get into trouble, and that made them mostly work.
GCR: All leaders are subject to criticism, and you received your share during your many years leading track and field in the U.S. What were the overriding personal and professional characteristics you aimed for in your leadership roles?
OC What I aimed for was to make the organizations that I worked with and for better, and to make Track and Field and all Olympic sports better. Lots of times, there were members of my own organizations that didn't think I was handling something the right way. In the final analysis, it turned out that all the sports got better. A good example is the governing bodies moving away from USOC control. The USOC wanted to control the U.S. Olympic Trials and the different governing bodies. I took a position that TAC/USA Track and Field was the governing body that selected the Olympic Track and Field team, so we had a right to use the name, Olympic Trials. The USOC felt they had the 'rights' to the name. I negotiated and pressured the USOC and didn't give up. I took the position that we wouldn't call it the Olympic Trials, and we would select our Olympic team from our national championships and use our own sponsors and sell our own television rights. They didn't think I was serious and so we went almost up to the selection meet. Then the USOC realized the seriousness, and ultimately, wanted to make a deal. We negotiated that the USOC would get the television rights and provide money to send our athletes to the Olympic Trials, while the governing body kept the gate receipts and the sponsorships. So, in that example, I did not back down from what I felt was in the best interest of USA Track and Field.
GCR: Looking back on your many years of leadership and the many changes regarding amateurism, sponsorships, television rights, and performance-enhancing drug testing, what were your biggest achievements that improved our sport both in the U.S. and internationally?
OC Two significant achievements are ushering in the changes where sports governing bodies could develop their own sport, and the move from amateur to professional. The switch to governing bodies being responsible to develop their sport also includes the NCAA and universities and high schools. That was an area that I emphasized even after the Amateur Sports Act came into being. My team and I worked with the NCAA and High School federations on improved relationships, and we gave them a ‘seat' at the table, with membership in USA Track and Field. We also sponsored an NCAA championship because we knew we needed Track and Field support from colleges and universities (this was our feeder system). As for the amateur to professional change, this was monumental for not only athletics/track and field but all sports. It was essentially a doing away with the amateur definition. That was the aim – to do away with the definition of amateurs so that the Olympics were open for everyone to compete. That took from 1979 to 1992, so at least twelve years of work. In 1979, the IAAF approved athletes using their names with sponsors for financial gain, and then in 1981, we began allowing trust funds where prize money was deposited for racing and training expenses.
GCR: THE GOLDEN MOMENT: 1964 OLYMPICS Before racing in the Olympics, an athlete must make the team. After the Olympic Trials process in 1964, how exciting was it to make the team and to realize that you were an Olympian?
OC It's hard to explain what that means. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I had had up to that point in the sport. I had been in the college and military system training and competing, and the accomplishment was reaching the first goal after all my hard work. Of course, it means that you are one of the best in the United States. Also, it means that in the event in which I competed, you are not just one of the best in the U.S., but one of the best in the world. At the time, it gave me some opportunities that I didn't have before. It took me a long time to get to that point, though. I tried out in 1960, and I didn't make the team. At the Olympic Trials in 1960, I didn't get out of the rounds. I was a college athlete at the University of Houston, and at my event in Texas, there weren't a lot of athletes on scholarship in track and field. So, in the sprints and the relays every day that you ran, it was full out competition. All the Texans think they are fast, and they can run fast. There weren't any track meets where we could take it easy. In my junior year at Houston, I ran 89 races from the beginning of the season in March through the NCAAs in June. That's a lot of racing in individual events and relays in one year. The year after I graduated, I kept running, but I wouldn't race more than five or six or at most ten times before the national championships. So that made a big difference in how my body responded.
GCR: How did you balance training with your military service?
OC The balance was challenging at first. I was a First Lieutenant in basic training and had no time to train, and it seemed like my running days were over. But once basic training finished, and I was assigned to a unit, it got somewhat more manageable, but not by a lot. My assignment was in the First Armored Division as a signal corps squad commander in Ft. Hood, Texas. Our orders were to get ‘strike ready,' which meant training from sunup to sundown to have all the equipment on wheels and ready to go if we were called upon. The reason for the military training was in response to the U.S.S.R forces building the Berlin Wall. Our command was selected to be ready to board a plane within 24 hours, land in a war zone, and begin fighting. The training was intense. My track training took place in the morning before reporting to my company and then after getting relieved at the end of the day. However, with very little training, I was able to win three events in the Fourth Army Track and Field Championships in the 100, 220 and 440 in record time. This was noticed by the Fourth Army commander, who had me transferred to Ft. Sam Houston and assigned to the U.S. Modern Pentathlon unit. This unit's mission was to prepare for international competition representing the US Army. Now, I had a lot of time to train, but I was coaching myself. As it turned out, with this new assignment, I was able to become a member of the 1963 Pan American team, various CISM teams, and various international competitions representing the U.S. I also had advisors who helped me, and one was Fred Wilt. Fred was a 1952 Olympian in the 10,000 meters, and he also happened to be an FBI agent. After retiring from the FBI, Fred became the women's track and field coach at Purdue. Fred had written a couple of books on training, and although he was not my ‘formal' coach, he gave me advice on my training and how to prepare.
GCR: What do you recall of that Gold Medal race, and what were your feelings to not win an individual medal, but to share the experience with four athletes and friends who together won the Gold Medal?
OC I recalled the hard training that had taken place for many years leading up to this opportunity. Of course, winning a Gold Medal is incredible! Those three guys and I have been friends for the rest of our lives. Two have passed on, Henry Carr and Mike Larrabee. I mentioned before the feeling of fellowship, and that you are relying upon each other to perform their best. There is no question that you create a strong bond with your relay teammates, and you are running for your teammates, and you don't want to let them down. There's nothing that can separate you from them, in my opinion. There was that moment when the four of us were the best in the world. One of my most vivid memories took place during the race and near the finish. I finished my leg of the race, staying on the inside of the track, and I watched as Ulis finished his leg. He was in front but close, and then Ulis stumbled and fell while handing off the baton to Henry. Ulis's head hit the track, and he was unable to move. I immediately grabbed him and moved him to the inside of the track. My thinking was that we could get disqualified if he was on the track and interfered with the finish. I had this thought because a similar incident happened to me at the '63 Pan Am Games. Even now, I can still see Ulis lying on the track, not moving.
GCR: How much did the four of you exemplify the word ‘team' when Ulis Williams expressed some doubts about anchoring the final, and the order was switched from Carr-Cassell-Larrabee-Williams in the preliminary heat to Cassell-Larrabee-Williams-Carr in the final?
OC Our coach, Robert Giegengack, who was a coach at Yale, had a lot to do with that. He would talk to us for our thoughts on the best order. In the preliminaries, it didn't matter that much. We didn't want to put too much pressure on Henry Carr because Henry hadn't run the 400 meters in about four months. He was a great 400-meter runner out of Arizona State, and he won the 200 meters at the Olympic Trials in New York. He only came in fourth in Los Angeles at the second Olympic Trials but made the team when Bob Hayes decided to only run the 100 meters. And then Henry won the Olympic 200 meters Gold Medal. After that incident where he was fourth, Henry felt he wasn't invincible, and he started working out twice a day. He was determined to get back into his best shape. Since Henry hadn't run any 400-meter races but was in good shape, he led off in the preliminaries so that he could get used to the distance. If something didn't feel right, he would have at least enough when he handed off for us to qualify for the final. Then in the final, I seemed to be reliable, and they wanted someone reliable to get the baton around first. It all worked out great.
GCR: As exciting as it was to win relay Gold, how disappointing was it to miss making the open 400-meter final by only a couple tenths of a second?
OC I expected to make the final, and I expected to do very well, so I was extremely disappointed that I did not make it. It was particularly disappointing because I had previously beaten many athletes who were moving on to the next round, and I was picked by some people to win the event. Athletes frequently have little excuses as to why they didn't succeed at times. I've never said this before, but I did have a little Achilles tendon problem going into the Olympic rounds. I had Achilles tendon issues before (like many sprinters), and watched it closely, and the Achilles problem this time played a bigger role than expected. One of the things that may have been a causative factor was about four days before the rounds. I was training with my training partner and roommate, Mike Larrabee. We were running 200 meters around the turn with a running start for our training session. We were doing four of them, and we planned to try to do them in under 20 seconds. And we did do them in under 20 seconds. After each one, we would take a full lap walk for about five minutes to rest. During that session, I think I tweaked my Achilles tendon a bit, and I did not want to tell the coach or anybody. I've never mentioned that in any interviews because I never wanted to use any excuses.
GCR: What are some of your best memories of other athletic competitions, meeting athletes in your sport and from other sports, and the reception from the people of Japan?
OC The experience in Japan is one that I remember as the ‘Friendly Games,' and on reflection, the last Olympics to fall into that category. The Olympic Village was very open, and just a few guards were standing at the entrance, but not checking bags or anything. We had the opportunity to visit other teams' areas, and I saw many athletes I knew from previous competitions. So, this, for me, was like renewing old friendships. This experience (and other competitions similarly) made it easier for me later when I became an executive of USA sports. Since one of my responsibilities was to create competitions, many of those athletes became coaches, officials, and executives in their international federation, and I drew on those relationships to negotiate and work in the international sports world. The Japanese were the most hospitable of any country I have ever traveled. They would always find a way to get something accomplished. One example of this is when Japan hosted a U.S. vs. U.S.S.R vs. Japan meet, followed by a 10-day training camp in Chiba. The Japanese paid for all the expenses for the U.S. and U.S.S.R. team at this camp. This took place before the World Cup in Australia, and it helped our team prepare for the competition, which we eventually won.
GCR: THE UNLIKELY PATHWAY: RURAL VIRGINIA TO THE OLYMPICS I'd like to go back to when you were a child. Did you get a lot of physical activity and play a variety of sports?
OC I grew up in southwest Virginia, which is a coal-mining region. That part of Virginia and Big Stone Gap is in the mountains, and there were coal mines and coal camps all around. I grew up in my early years in one of those coal camps in the town of Pardee. We had plenty of activity, but it wasn't as organized. In fact, there were hardly any organized sports until high school. There were some amateur softball teams. We were very active, though, and always playing something. There wasn't a television to watch, but we could listen to the radio at times.
GCR: You mentioned in your book that you played high school football, but how unlikely was it that as you neared high school graduation, your school's first-year football coach, Sam Dixon, started a track team, and you immediately found success as a sprinter?
OC It was very unusual. Sam Dixon was a very creative man. He had been a basketball star in college and a war hero, though he didn't talk much about it. As a matter of fact, he was honored by the French and the U.S.A. and got many medals during World War II. I believe he had been in the Normandy invasion, and he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The other part of Sam's story is that he was discharged before the end of the war because he had so many wounds. He came back to Norton, Virginia, and finished high school. As the football coach, Sam was looking for ways to keep his football team in shape and creative ways to do so. One of his ideas was to start a track team. I was a senior and didn't necessarily have to be on the team, but he wanted me to be a part of it, and so I did. I won a couple of events for him the first time I ran in competition.
GCR: For decades organized high school track and field had a specific qualifying route from District competition to Regionals and then to the State meet. Could you relate how you made it to the Virginia state meet your senior year in high school and how you performed in the 100-yard dash and the 220-yard dash, without even a qualifying time in the longer sprint?
OC There wasn't a track at our school, and a track meet was scheduled in a neighboring town, Gate City. The meet was between the football team from my school, Appalachia, and the team from Gate City. The races were run on the football field because they also didn't have a track. (They had some races on an oval around the football field and I don't think they even knew what the distances were. They had a pretty good idea of what 100 yards was on the football field.) Sam wanted me to run against some guy from Gate City who was supposed to be fast. We didn't have track spiked shoes. I think I wore some football shoes or sneakers. I beat the guy pretty good. When we asked for the times, there were a couple of timers who didn't want to provide the times. One of them was the football coach at Gate City. Then the other timers said they had timed me in 9.8 or 9.9 for 100 yards. After the meet, Sam Dixon was talking to the football coach who said his athlete usually runs faster than that and that he timed me in 9.7. That ‘meet' was what prompted Sam to encourage me to follow track and field. Sam then suggested we go to the Virginia state meet. He entered me in the 100 yard and 220-yard races. I had never raced 220 yards before. For the 100 yards, I didn't win – I came in fourth place. I didn't know how to start, so I took a standing start. Before the 220, I said, ‘Sam, I'm going to win this race.' I didn't know what the distance was or how far it was because it was on a straightaway. When we started on one end, we could barely see the other end. Again, since I didn't know how to start, I just took a stand-up start and ran and kept going. I was getting tired, and halfway down the track, Sam Dixon was there saying, ‘Keep going! You don't have too much more to go.' So, I kept going, and I ran 21.8 seconds, which is still a high school record for a straightaway 220.
GCR: As you progressed in the sport during your collegiate years, how important was East Tennessee State Coach Julian Crocker, and what were the primary tenets you learned that helped you to become one of the top sprinters in the country?
OC At East Tennessee State, I was a football player. I went to college on a football scholarship. In the spring, Julian Crocker wanted me to come out for the track team. So, I practiced for spring football, and they would give me a little time to get my uniform off and change, and then I would go practice with Julian Crocker and the track team. Julian was just a good man. He didn't know too much about track. He was the head of the Physical Education department at East Tennessee State, so he was more of an academic instructor. But, they had him coaching track so we would do stretching and sprints. We didn't have too much of a training program. I don't remember him ever telling me how to hold my arms or what to do with my knees. I would just start out running and run. What Julian did do was to encourage us. He wanted us to keep getting better. I went to some meets for East Tennessee State and won practically all of them. I think I ran 9.4 for 100 yards, which was just a click off the World Record of 9.3 seconds. All these races were on cinder tracks. So, at the end of the season, East Tennessee State was in the NAIA, and Julian decided he wanted to take me and another guy, Ken Osburn, to the NAIA Championships. This was just after the Korean War, and there were a lot of guys in school on the G.I. bill who had run in the military, and one of them was Ken Osburn. We had both qualified to go to the NAIA Championships, but the school didn't want to send us because of the cost. Julian went out on the campus and got students to donate money. The school didn't like that because it meant they were not putting too much effort into its athletic program. Anyway, we went to the event, and I had to race Bobby Morrow, who had won three gold medals in the 1956 Olympics. I got second place to Bobby Morrow at 100 yards and 220 yards. About ten days later, I went to the AAU championships in Dayton, Ohio, by myself as Ken Osborn didn't go. I won the 220-yard dash around the curve. Bobby Morrow didn't show up. That was the way it sort of happened. I could just run.
GCR: With the success you had at East Tennessee State, how did you end up transferring to Houston?
OC I transferred to Houston because Julian Crocker recommended that I go to a school with more competition if I wanted to make the Olympic team or be in any international competition. Julian contacted Johnny Morris, the coach, about my transfer to the University of Houston, mainly because they were an independent school and weren't in a conference that had rules about transfer athletes. The independent schools at that time did not have the types of regulations that other conferences had about red shirts or sitting out a year. Coach Crocker made the arrangements because I didn't know anything about Johnny Morris or the University of Houston. He gave me the reasons to transfer and asked me if I wanted to, and I said, ‘Yeah, I'll try it.' And so that is how I ended up at the University of Houston.
GCR: You mentioned that you raced many races when you transferred to Houston. What did Houston Coach Johnny Morris do to further your improvement as a sprinter?
OC The thing that Johnny did the most is that he got us in a lot of competitions. There was a limited budget at the University of Houston at the time, and they didn't have many coaches. Johnny was primarily a hurdles coach. He trained the sprinters for the 100, 220, and 440-yard races all the same. It wasn't too bad, but if we were going to break out in one of the specialized events, Johnny didn't have that edge for us when we were getting ready for the national competitions. He prepared us as a team and for relays. We didn't have too much individual attention.
GCR: Can you tell us a bit about you also doing some training with Texas Southern and their Coach Stan Wright?
OC I got in a little bit of trouble because Texas Southern was only about three blocks from the University of Houston. Stan Wright, the coach at Texas Southern, had very good sprinters, and he knew how to coach sprinting. I used to go over there after the practice with Johnny and practice some with Stan Wright. Texas Southern was an all-black student school, and Houston at that time didn't have any black students. I went over and would practice with Stan, and then Johnny found out about it. He called Stan and told him he was going to report him to the NCAA and his Athletic Director and that I shouldn't be over there working out with him. My reason to train at Texas Southern was that Stan's runners were very fast, and I wanted to see what they were doing to get that fast and compete against the best.
GCR: With all those dozens and dozens of races you ran in college, what are some of your most memorable competitions from college for racing strong opponents, anchoring a relay, a kick to win from behind, or surprising your competition?
OC There were three of those races my senior year that stand out more than anything else. There was a series of relay meets that all the Texas colleges would attend. We would start at the end of February with the relay carnival called the Border Olympics, go to the Texas Relays, then on to the Kansas Relays, and finally the Drake Relays. We hadn't done very well before at the Texas Relays, but in my senior year, we had a good mile relay team. In the past, we had never beaten Texas. They had a guy by the name of Ralph Osabal, who was one of their best quarter milers, anchoring their relay team. I got the baton about thirty or forty yards behind him. I beat him, and we won the race. That was one of the most satisfying races for me and Johnny Morris that we ever did – to beat Texas. In the next two weeks, we went to the Kansas Relays, and the same thing happened. We got down, and I was able to overtake the runner in the lead. Then we went to the Drake Relays, where it is always cold and rainy. At Drake, we were expected to do the same thing. One of our runners who could run about 48 seconds was either the second or third relay leg, but he went out the night before the race and had too much to drink or partied too much. Anyway, when it came time for the race, he ended up running about 51 seconds for his leg. That left Drake, who was leading at the time, about fifty yards ahead, and I could never overtake the anchor runner. Those two races we won would have been a greater accomplishment if we had won at Drake. Those were two of the races I remember the most. I also recall that we had a lot of good international distance runners, so we would run medley relays where I was asked to run 220 yards or 440 yards. When I spoke of running over 80 races in a year, that also included relay races.
GCR: After college, you mentioned that you entered the military and, in 1962, won gold medals in the 400 meters and 4 x 400-meter relay and a silver medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the World Military Championships. How exciting was it to earn these medals representing your country?
OC That is something I will always remember. The CISM military events were considered to be the NATO Olympics. It brought together the best NATO athletes that were in CISM, which stands for the Council International of Sports in the Military. The other countries had good teams, and they had varying rules and regulations on who could be on their team. For instance, in Italy, they considered every policeman to be in the military, so any National Guard, Police, or other law enforcement personnel could be on the Italian team. The member countries were ones who were included within our treaties. The military treated us very well for these meets.
GCR: The following year, at the 1963 Pan American Games, you won two gold medals in the relays and were second in the 200 meters and sixth in 100 meters. How did you make the U.S. team, and what stands out from your four races?
OC The Pan Am Games may have been the second largest athletic competition that took place at that time. The meet was in February or March in Brazil, which is our late winter/early spring, but their summer. Making the team was based on competition results from the year before and indoor events. We didn't have a qualifying meet like the Olympic Trials. They had a selection committee to pick the team, and I was selected because I could do all the relays and the 100, 200, and 400 meters. My individual events in the Pan Am Games were the 100 and 200 meters. One thing that stood out was in the 100 meters. At the start, my blocks slipped. The blocks were different than those of today, and the starting block had a groove that, when too much pressure was applied, the footpad would jump. I ran the race and then ran back to the starting line. The starter said, ‘Did you know that your block slipped?' I thought that he should have called the race back, but he didn't. It was a great experience, though, again being able to compete for my country.
GCR: It is often said that ‘Records are made to be broken, but championships are forever.' You mentioned earlier about winning the AAU championship title in 1957 at 220 yards, and your second AAU title wasn't until eight years later at 440 yards in 1965. What do you recall of going out strong in your final year competing in the national championship?
OC I wanted to go out strong and on top. I suppose subconsciously that not making the 400-meter final in Tokyo, is what drove me to continue another year, and to prove to myself and others that I was, indeed, good enough to represent this country in the Olympics. In 1965, I had a great year that was crowned with a USA championship win in the 440 and outstanding performances in the USA v USSR dual meet in Kiev.
GCR: THE NATURAL PROGRESSION: AMATEURISM TO PROFESSIONALISM There are so many runners whom I've spoken to or who have written about under the table money at track meets and road races. Was this a practice that everyone knew was happening, but was just ignored and accepted in the 1960s and 1970s?
OC That is the way it was. The meet promoters would determine who would receive money, how much, and who received more. It was almost impossible to control and manage the way the sport was and with the rules at the time. This wasn't just in the United States but in Europe and other parts of the world. I saw it, and the athletes I met and talked with would tell me stories of who gives money, and which meet directors were in that market. There wasn't any 'real' system that paid athletes based on prior performances. It was determined by the meet directors. But they were paying athletes. One of the saddest stories was what happened to Wes Santee in the 1950s and his loss of amateur status. I still have all of Wes' records.
GCR: In the 1970s, the International Track Association started out and, though I enjoyed watching the meets on television, it seemed to be underfunded and had trouble competing with the under the table money from other meets. Was this pro track just a little too early with all the amateur rules and regulations imposed by the multiple organizations?
OC They tried to do that with the ITA after the 1972 Olympics. I believe that Mike OHara was one of the guys who put it together. The only location that attracted the top athletes was in the United States. Track and field was a worldwide sport, and most of the ITA meets were indoors. The financing wasn't there, and the performances as professionals couldn't be sanctioned for any type of a record. The public didn't accept it at the time, even though the ITA had runners like Jim Ryun and Kip Keino. By that time amateur athletes, who were supposedly not getting paid, were achieving better performances. There was a combination of different factors that caused the ITA to fail in 1976 after the Montreal Olympics. Then most of the athletes wanted the IAAF to reinstate them, even though they knew the rules were against them. I helped these athletes work out a process with the IAAF to be reinstated. That was something we could do to help as we moved from amateurism to full professionalism.
GCR: I interviewed some athletes who ran in the 1981 Cascade Runoff 15k with open prize money and it seems that was a watershed event as more and more races began to offer above the table prize money and the dam had broken. Could the national and international organizations stop the flood waters of full professionalism?
OC That was one of the more important steps at the time, yes. But there were some difficulties in getting that point. In the late '70s and '80s, there were so many city races across the U.S. Everyone was getting in on the road running craze, … and average Joes were now running 5k and 10k races. The races were fitness runs for lots of participants, but there was also a competitive component. We tried to control the rules in the IOC and IAAF, and deal with the ‘with or against' rule that Avery Brundage had pushed through. The rule stated that if someone competed ‘with or against' professionals, they were now ineligible for international competition. The rule was impossible to monitor because no one knew who was competing in the race. There was an effort to eliminate the rule, but one of my responsibilities was to enforce the rules and ensure athletes were going to be eligible for international competition and the Olympic Games. And as the chief executive of the sport's organizing body, I was ultimately responsible for the athletes and ensuring eligibility. So, that was a big issue. The Cascade Runoff was the first race to announce it was a full professional race, and it was backed by Nike because they wanted to sell shoes to all the runners. We monitored the race and got the results and did our investigation to get the names of people that received prize money.
GCR: Will you relate some highlights of the hearings in Chicago, the first inklings of a trust fund system and the notification to international countries of their athletes being suspended?
OC We had hearings for all 81 athletes in Chicago. Some athletes showed up, and some didn't, but all of them were suspended. Frank Shorter was there, but he didn't run the race or accept prize money. He was an official entry, he ran, but he didn't have a race number. Frank showed up with Herb Lindsay and a lawyer. Herb Lindsey still wanted to be eligible for the Olympics, so he hadn't deposited his check from the race. They had the idea to put the prize money ‘in trust' for training and racing expenses, and that's when where the concept of the trust fund started. The other athletes were suspended, and it caused a fury around the world as I notified international federations. I informed the IAAF about the suspensions, and the international federations felt we could not impose the suspensions. Our team's response was the meet took place in the U.S., and the athletes took prize money. Furthermore, we suspended American athletes, so why should we not suspend the international athletes who also took prize money? Those kinds of decisions didn't make me very popular!
GCR: How big was it when Frank Shorter made the deal endorsing Hilton Hotels that allowed him to be paid not directly for his performances, but by using his notoriety?
OC That was a significant step in the about 12-year process to where athletes could finally accept their own prize money and negotiate compensation. I believe that happened in 1979. Frank wanted to maintain his eligibility to compete in the Olympics. His coach was Bob Giegangack from Yale. Frank wanted to negotiate a deal with Hilton and asked Bob, ‘Can I trust Ollan Cassell if I talk to him about this deal?' Bob told Frank that he could, and Frank came to discuss it with me. He wanted Hilton Hotels to be a sponsor while he would consult with them about where to stage races and help them design racecourses. I thought it was something we could do. Not many athletes wanted to work with us, but Frank did, so I went to the IAAF with that idea, because of course, we still had the issue of the amateur rule. I talked with Adriaan Paulen (head of IAAF at the time) and explained the issue and problem we had not just in the U.S., but worldwide, and then I explained what Frank had suggested about Hilton being a sponsor and that Frank, as a lawyer, would give advice and do more than just show up for races. I recommended that we/IAAF needed to look at this very hard and suggested I try this approach for six or seven months to see if it worked. Paulen said it was happening mostly in the United States, so we should go ahead and do it. We signed a contract between the AAU, Frank Shorter, and Hilton Hotels so the money would flow through a trust, and we would reimburse Frank when he submitted expenses for training and racing. It was a complicated deal, but we got it through. The AAU officers and certain employees said we couldn't approve of this because it was a violation of the amateur rules. However, I noted that the IAAF approved this deal and, since we were a member of the IAAF, we had to follow their rules.
GCR: What were the results after your six-month report to the IAAF?
OC After the report, international athletes and federations began to follow the same approach. It was impossible to turn it back. The IAAF didn't say a word after that about what we were doing, and this allowed athletes to make money off their own name and ability and performances. We then signed Marty Liquori and Craig Virgin to similar agreements. This effectively eliminated the 'with or against' professionals' rule, which no longer played a role.
GCR: Will you explain how Frank Shorter's trust fund idea was based on what they were doing in Canada, but with certain differences?
OC Frank Shorter expanded on the idea of the trust fund. The Canadian flavor was trust funds designated for a group of certain athletes for training expenses that were provided by their governing body or Olympic Committee. Frank's idea was to have trust funds for individuals. One of our attorneys, Alvin Criss, worked with Frank and his attorneys to flush out the individual trust fund concept. I got it approved by the TAC Board of Directors and the IAAF in 1981. It was all because Frank came up with the idea.
GCR: How rewarding was it over the next 10 or 12 years to get to the point where money and compensation was a part of the sport, there weren't these questions about whether someone was technically an amateur and there was full professionalism?
OC It was nice to see it take full hold and very rewarding because that was a key aspect of the sport that needed to be changed. And it was bigger than just the athletes getting recognized as professionals. Now we had the opportunity to really promote our athletes. When I started working with the IAAF, there were no resources or people working on television rights, marketing, or creating a series of events. I had worked on and created programs and events in the U.S, so I brought that to the table. They made me the Chairman of the Marketing, Broadcasting, Sponsorship, and Program Committee. I took over those departments of the IAAF for Primo Nebiolo. We built a series of events with meets in Europe, including those in Zurich and Brussels that were established and paying money to athletes. The money was paid openly. (Actually, the IOC wasn't doing anything about this, but if it was exposed in an investigation, it could have brought down the entire Olympic organization. It wasn't one or two events in a couple of countries. They were events that were in large municipalities that were sponsored by cities, and many had their country's Prime Minister or President attending the events. If this were exposed, we felt the public would never have any trust in the Olympic movement, and it could go away and fold up.) That was a big concern of mine. So, we created the Track and Field Grand Prix, and Mobil was a sponsor in the U.S. Mobil also then became the sponsor of the IAAF Grand Prix, which we created as a ‘higher level' event. We had a television contract, and that seemed to work well for a long time. That was the beginning of what was later the Golden League and is now the Diamond League of track and field meets. Each meet had sponsors, a television contract, and promotional items and featured certain events and athletes. That is when we began to realize that we could cause the Olympic movement and its amateurism to come crashing down.
GCR: How did you combine the new trust fund concept with the Grand Prix meets?
OC We began to apply the trust fund concept in all the Grand Prix meets around the world, which was the step before athletes being able to negotiate their own contracts. They still were not allowed to do so, which was the reason for the trust funds. Athletes also couldn't take the money. Funds were received by their agents and then applied to their trust according to the regulations. We used it in road races, and track and field meets. For instance, if Jim Beatty decided to host a track and field meet in North Carolina, he could apply for a trust fund sanction and pay the athletes directly into their trust funds. We developed it similarly all over the world. Up until 1991, athletes could not negotiate directly and be paid by meet directors directly, but we eventually changed that rule so athletes could finally negotiate their own fees and agreements, and that was the end of any amateur rules.
GCR: THE GOOD: PERFORMERS AND PERFORMANCES Billy Mills – the only U.S Athlete to win the Olympic 10,000-meter Gold Medal and his inspiration to all people in the decades since then.
OC Billy Mills is a very special person. The prejudice he faced at the University of Kansas as a young man coming off the Indian reservation and going to a white school was very tough. His Olympic win was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen, along with Bob Hayes anchor leg in the 4 x 100-meter relay. Billy's win was special to me as we were close friends. We traveled together on military teams for CISM meets when we were representing the U.S. We became closer friends after the Olympics and have attended different events together. Billy asked me to be a sounding block for his life story movie, ‘Running Brave,' so I did some consulting on it, though not very much. That movie has been a big inspiration, and Billy has gone back to villages and done so many things for the youth of his tribe and the Indian nation. It's amazing what he has done.
GCR: Bob Beamon – the amazing twenty-nine foot plus long jump for the Gold Medal when no one had ever leaped twenty-eight feet
OC I don't know how anyone can explain that jump. It was an incredible performance. It was unbelievable at the time. He was flying through the sky, and I don't think anybody who was in the stadium believed it happened. Regardless of what has happened since then in the long jump with Carl Lewis and Mike Powell and will occur in the future, that will always be remembered.
GCR: Tommie Smith and John Carlos – the extremely controversial protest at the time in 1968 on the 200-meter podium, for which those two athletes paid a big price, during a year filled with social unrest in the United States and a possible boycott of the Olympics by black athletes, but has been looked upon with an expanded viewpoint as the years and decades have passed as an important moment for social justice.
OC I was sitting in the stadium in Mexico City when that took place. In the rear-view window, it is now viewed as a seminal moment in social justice and that athletes can make a difference.
GCR: Jim Ryun – your Olympic teammate in 1964 who was the first high school athlete to break four minutes in the mile and how he carried himself through adversity such as having to race at altitude in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and getting tripped in the 1972 Munich Olympics without getting reinstated.
OC There is no question about Jim being a credit to the sport. I personally consider him to be the greatest miler we have ever seen. He raced in so many different situations. And he has been an inspiration to the youth of America and hasn't shied away from that responsibility. But he was always that kind of gentleman. Rick Carlson was the photographer who followed Jim and influenced Jim to take up photography as a hobby.
GCR: Frank Shorter – his 1972 Olympic Gold Medal in the marathon and its effect on the American running seen over the next decade.
OC Frank is a good friend of mine who wrote the forward for my book, ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus.' Without Frank, I don't think we would have had a big interest in running and road races. I remember when we started a road race here in Indianapolis that was called the ‘Indianapolis 500,' a half marathon loop from downtown to the Indy 500 racetrack and back. This was after Frank's performances at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Frank was invited to come to the inaugural year of the race. The press asked him, ‘Frank, this is the first year this race has been conducted, and you show up here to run. Why did you do this?' And Frank said, ‘because my governing body asked me to.' That's the kind of guy he was. He was one of the first athletes who acted for the benefit of all athletes and our organizations.
GCR: Dave Wottle – the most exciting thirteen seconds of racing ever when he went in one hundred meters from fifth place to winning the Gold Medal in the 1972 Olympic 800 meters
OC That is what athletes do sometimes – they do unusual feats, and that is what Dave did. He is unassuming as a person could be. He just kept living his life afterward. He's another one of those special people.
GCR: Carl Lewis – he duplicated Jesse Owens feat from the 1936 Olympics with Gold Medals in the same four events and then he did what only Al Oerter had done by winning a gold Medal in the same Olympic event in four consecutive Olympics. How unbelievable is Carl Lewis and is he almost overlooked a bit by track and field fans?
OC Carl was an athlete with the most ability of any athlete I've ever seen. He was also able to come through in clutch performances and rise to the occasion. At the Atlanta Olympics, his performance in the long jump was incredible. On his last jump, he beat all the other competitors to win the Gold.
GCR: Joan Benoit Samuelson - was what Joan did for women's marathon running in the U.S. and the world after she won the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in the marathon comparable to what Frank Shorter had done a dozen years earlier?
OC Her performance opened a world of opportunities for women in running. At the time, the longest distance for women, in a major meet, was the 3,000 meters. The IOC didn't want long-distance events for women in the Olympic Games. There was an IOC rule that an event must first be held at a World Championships before petitioning the IOC to add it to the Olympic program. So, we held a women's marathon at the 1983 World Championships, therefore, it ultimately ended up in the Olympics the next year, and Joan was the right person to do it. She has been a steady person since then and hasn't tried to seek out any of the publicity. She has just lived her life. This feat paved the way for women's distance running in major championships.
GCR: Michael Johnson – I was there for his 200-meter Gold Medal World Record at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and for him to do what no man has done before or since in winning both 200-meter and 400-meter Olympic gold is one for the ages.
OC Michael is also one of those special people, and his performance was amazing – and not repeated since. I remember the stadium that night was electrified. He also had a great coach who prepared him well.
GCR: THE BAD: PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS There are World Records from East Germans though later we found proof that they used performance enhancing drugs and then there are other cases where there wasn't proof, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, but athletes, both from the U.S. and foreign countries have records that are way out there. Since we look at these records and either know they aren't real or suspect they aren't real, what does that do to damage our sport?
OC I think that is one of the worst things that has damaged our sport. We could never get hold of the East Germans when they were setting records. When the Berlin Wall came down, one of the first things the West Germans did was to go to the East German labs and get the files that weren't destroyed. There were records as to who was doping. We referred to those records when we battled on behalf of Frank Shorter to get Waldemar Cierpinski disqualified from his Olympic titles because his name was in the list of those who used PEDs. It was bad the way the IOC handled the matter, and they still won't do anything about it. In Frank Shorter's specific case, we had all the records of Cierpinski's doping scheme. The IOC position was that he never tested positive during the competition, and there was nothing they could do because, at the time, they were only testing during competition. Doping is still a scourge on our sport.
GCR: Out of competition testing did become part of the practice, but it was uneven as the athletes in the U.S. and Europe were tested more frequently than those in third world countries. How tough has it been to level the playing field as to eliminating PEDs as an aid?
OC In the many years since I left USATF and the other international organizations I was affiliated with, additional steps have been taken that weren't available before. There is an independent agency from the IAAF that handles the hearings and suspensions. WADA monitors around the world and has USADA here in the United States, but there are still some that slip through the cracks. There is not a foolproof program. I believe it has affected track and field more than any other sport mainly because every time there is an issue, it seems a track and field athlete gets more attention than violators in other sports. It reflects on the governing organizations. The impact of drugs has been a terrible thing. The sport has been working on getting its arms around the problem, but it never seems to be enough. And, Lamine Diack, the President of the IAAF for many years, is now going to jail in France because, apparently, he and his son were skimming money from the IAAF. So, in addition to the performance enhancing drug issue, there are other problems.
GCR: Does it seem like as long as there is the lure of money for performances, and sponsorship dollars and medals to be won that there are always going to be some coaches and athletes who will be using chemists to try to stay ahead of the drug testing? Will there be an end to this or a constant battle?
OC It is going to be a constant battle. Every time we get into this issue, there are lawsuits and proceedings and legal procedures to try and make positive accomplishments. It's too bad that some people can't compete on their own abilities and need to have something else to help them.
GCR: As a fan of the sport of track and field, when I see a great performance, usually on television, in my mind, I find myself questioning if it is real. Instead of enjoying this great shot put or this awesome hurdle race or fast sprint, I automatically have mental questions about its validity. Is this just sad?
OC I agree that we are at that stage where people wonder if the athletes are on a drug that no one can detect and if they are using a different chemist that has found a new drug that is not on any list. That is a bad thing.
GCR: THE UGLY: TERRORISM AND BOYCOTTS The first boycott you encountered was when you were still an athlete and starting out with the AAU. Could you tell us a bit about the Russian boycott of the USA-USSR dual meet series in 1966 and how that was resolved and reinstated?
OC The Russians boycotted one of our annual USA-USSR dual meet series events in 1966, and that was when it was a major event and the most important track and field competition outside of the Olympics. We competed in Kiev in 1965, and I was a member of that team. Also, by that time I was the Director of Track and Field for the AAU, though I was still competing. In 1966 they boycotted, and at that time, Colonel Don Hull was Executive Director of the AAU. What happened was that the AAU was trying to get the Russians to pay back about $300,000 that the Los Angeles Times had lost as their deal was to pay the way for the U.S. team to go to Russia and to get their money back as the sponsor of the meet the following year. They had paid all the expenses of the U.S. team to go to Kiev in 1965, and then, when the return meet was canceled in 1966, they were out the money that Russia didn't reimburse. Colonel Hull sent letters to the IAAF and IOC to try to get the Russians to reimburse the money. They didn't care. And any time we anyone sent a communication to Russia before it got to the people it was intended for, it went through about five different hands. It was read, translated, and opinions given about what decision to make before it even got to the right contact. In 1968, I had several meetings with the Russian assistant sports minister named Leonid Khomenkov. We negotiated a deal to renew the USA-USSR series, but they would have to reimburse us the $300,000. We creatively devised a method the Russians would do that since they didn't have cash. They would pay the U.S. team's transportation in Russia or Europe for competitions until we worked down that amount, sort of a credit. They would give us rubles at the meet in Russia which we couldn't take out of the country. I would deposit the rubles at the Pan Am office as they were the only foreign airline flying into Russia at the time. When we needed transportation to Russia, we would use those rubles. The deal worked out that way, and we started the series again.
GCR: In some ways it seems that the 1972 Olympic terrorist attack in Munich laid the groundwork for terrorism to become almost commonplace around the world in society today. What are your thoughts on the 1972 attack on the Israeli team?
OC I could not believe that anything like this could happen. I had a pass to get into the Village and stayed there until the terrorists took the hostages. In my opinion, the beginning of using the Olympics to gain attention started in 1968. So, I think the terrorists in Munich knew how much television attention was placed on the Olympics, and they wanted to get that attention. They were giving their cause a big boost. In response, there was pressure to cancel the remaining days of competition, but the Games prevailed.
GCR: Four years later there appeared to be a minor issue when the New Zealand rugby team played a match in South Africa and this was not even an Olympic sport. But due to the apartheid practice in South Africa most of the African nations boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I've interviewed Kenya's Henry Rono, who was in Montreal for the Olympics, and was told to go home. How sad was it for these great athletes to leave due to this rugby match?
OC It should not have been an issue., and the athletes suffered because someone was looking to score a personal advantage. The horrible factor in all these boycotts is that someone wants to get an advantage over someone else.
GCR: It didn't stop as the USA led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Russian military involvement in Afghanistan. What did you think of that at the time, and how ridiculous does it seem in hindsight when the U.S. has been involved in Afghanistan militarily for around eighteen years? And what about the great athletes who missed their chance to shine and the youth around the world who missed out on being inspired by these great athletes?
OC I did not agree with President Carter making that decision. He must have had bad advice or for some other reason, made his decision. I was threatened by his attorney several times because I didn't want our athletes to be in a boycott. But, after I was threatened, I steered clear of the discussion.
GCR: When I interviewed Craig Virgin, he mentioned that the boycott took away Craig's chance at an Olympic medal and the Russian grain embargo imposed by President Carter hurt Craig's family who were grain farmers. Do you have any more comments on this boycott?
OC Overall, it was not a good move by President Carter, and at the time, it impacted the entire system and Olympic movement. We tried to give our athletes some alternatives to at least get something out of that season.
GCR: Was it almost a foregone conclusion that the Russians were going to lead a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics to get even?
OC Oh, sure. We knew that was going to happen. It was another horrible situation.
GCR: THE FUTURE: TRACK AND FIELD IN THE USA, OLYMPICS AND YOUR LIFE Track and field was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s with big indoor meets and outdoor meets with tens of thousands of spectators. Is there any chance of increasing the sport's popularity in the United States? You worked on this for years and is it a constant struggle where people are enthralled by basketball, football and baseball players and the millions of dollars they make rather than their athletic competition?
OC Starting in 1969, and for the next ten years, we televised an AAU Champions Series that was broadcast worldwide. Since the year 2000, when I left the USATF and IAAF, I haven't tried to get involved in any of their decisions. Eventually, I think the sport will come back and gain some traction, but you've got to have people who are prepared to take significant steps to get it done.
GCR: Over the years I've thought of how in the U.S. everybody loves rooting for their team, so if eight or more cities in the U.S. had a team, then interest could increase. But, is it impossible to do something like that because of the NCAA season and the European season and the Diamond League?
OC That team concept doesn't seem to be practical in today's world. I still follow the sport and get news briefs every day from the IAAF, the IOC, and USATF. The Diamond League seems as if it could be a good answer, like pro tennis.
GCR: When we look forward, there are World Championships in every odd-numbered year and the Olympics every fourth year. In some ways do you enjoy the World Championships more than the Olympics since there is a sole focus on track and field versus the Olympics that are so big and so security conscious?
OC The World Track and Field Championships will continue every two years, which I was sort of opposed to when they went from every four years and decreased to every two years. I thought it should be contested every four years, but the other decision was made. The reason was we had the World Cup at the time, which was two years before the Olympics. The Olympics are worthwhile and will continue. I often have a hard time understanding what the people running it are trying to do. The Olympics are too solid and have too much money behind them. There are billions of dollars involved from television and sponsors, and everyone wants to be associated with the Olympics. Track and Field will continue but needs to get more traction with fans the way it used to be. But those times have passed, and the leaders of the sport will probably keep on doing what they are doing.
GCR: Another area that we look toward are records and barriers – are there any such as Michael Carter's high school shot put record of 82 feet, three inches, that you think may never be broken and are untouchable? Or is there a barrier that you see broken soon such as the nineteen second men's 200 meters or 1:40 men's 800 meters?
OC That's a hard question. It seems like every time they say a record will last forever, and it doesn't. There's always that ‘records are made to be broken' saying that is in play. I think the running events are most often broken or at the stage of being broken. It seems to take a longer time with the field events. But development of the human body allows people to get stronger and people to get better. In the next decade, I see the running events as the most likely to be broken compared to field events.
GCR: With World Championships Gold Medals earned by U.S. athletes including Christian Coleman, Sam Kendricks, Noah Lyles, Deanna Price, Dalilah Muhammad and Joe Kovacs and other top track and field performances, how bright is the future for USA Track and Field based on our current athletes and those they inspire to follow in their footsteps?
OC Overall, the future is very bright, and the outlook is promising. In the sprints, hurdles, relays and field events, I see great potential from the current group of athletes. In the middle distances, there are some good athletes, and importantly, the coaches and athletes are now preparing and training to be in a better position to compete with the African nations. A few other contributing factors are there is more money in the sport that is to be used for athlete development, and the IAAF has better independent control over drug testing.
GCR: You have served as an adjunct professor for Olympic Sports history at the University of Indianapolis and are the president of the Indiana Olympian Association. How nice is it to stay close to our sport and to inform young people of its history?
OC I no longer teach the class. But teaching people about the sport is gratifying to me, and I like to do that. I'm at a stage in life where I don't go out and advocate for any of the issues. I look forward to seeing what people are doing and how they are doing it. I don't express an opinion or give advice. The teaching of history is important because it is true that if we aren't aware of history, it will repeat itself. That is what students need to understand.
GCR: We mentioned your book, ‘Inside the Five Ring Circus,' in the early part of this interview and I want to emphasize that it goes into amazing detail, way beyond what we have touched on and is a great read. What is the method to order a copy?
OC It is available on Amazon and directly from me. The price for a signed copy from me is $15.00 versus a higher price plus shipping on Amazon. We accept credit cards, checks, and even mobile payments like Quick pay. Those interested can contact me via email or Facebook Messenger.
GCR: Among your many honors, you were inducted into the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2006. Is it both humbling and rewarding to receive these accolades after your many years of service?
OC I am happy to accept any of these awards that I have received. This one from the Track and Field Hall of Fame is one that I greatly enjoy.
GCR: What is your current health and fitness regimen, and are you still able to get out and about and to stay active?
OC I'm still active. I had two hip operations on the right and left hip that were nineteen years apart. I've had open-heart surgery and a valve replaced because it was causing some problems. I do walk a couple of miles per day and try to get other physical activity every day. So, I'm still active from a health standpoint. I don't go to many events. I'll go to a book signing or book sale. I try to keep physically active and fit for life.
GCR: When you sum up the major lessons you have learned during your life from starting in a small town in rural Virginia and succeeding on the world stage in athletic competition and administration, the discipline and mental fortitude necessary to race at a high level, your service to others and any adversity you have faced, what is your one or two minute wrap up of the ‘Ollan Cassell philosophy of life and doing your best?'
OC There are a couple of main ideas. One is – don't give up! Don't ever say that you can't do something or that something can't be done. Another thought that I maintained comes from my mother. She used to tell her kids, including me, ‘when you start to do something, hook your wagon to a star and climb to it.' I've used that in my own thinking. That really means the same thing as don't ever quit and don't ever give up…just keep going.
  Inside Stuff
Family My wife is Cathy, and we have been married for almost 60 years. What I enjoy the most is my family of six children, their spouses, and eleven grandkids. I have three boys and three girls and am very fortunate that all six children have college degrees and/or advanced degrees and are successful. We always stressed education
Nicknames At the University of Houston, because I competed in so many events, I acquired the name of ‘Iron Horse.' But that hasn't been said about me in a long time
Favorite movies Westerns
Favorite music Country
Favorite books I read about a book a month. Some are sports books, some are military books, and some are history books
First car A Ford
Current car A Chevrolet
First Job I did work in the summertime as a teenager at different jobs
Pets Dogs have been a favorite pet of mine. Growing up, we had dogs all the time, and then also with my own family. We had collies and border collies the most. Those were the dogs that we considered to be the best for us
Favorite breakfast Scrambled eggs
Favorite meal Pasta
Favorite beverages Water. Also, I don't drink much alcohol, and I never have, but my favorite would be a beer now and then
First running memory The first race I had in high school as a senior was the one that set me in motion toward where I was going
Running heroes One was Bobby Morrow. He was so smooth, and he ran so effortlessly. He is someone that lots of people wanted to emulate and we wanted to run like him
Greatest running moments The Olympic Gold Medal would be at the very top. One that I remember very well is the U.S. Championship in the quarter mile in 1965. That is one that I enjoyed as much as any. I was leading most of the way. In that particular year, I was in was of those ‘zones,' like you hear talk of people being ‘in the zone' whether it's a hitting zone or a sports zone. It could be in tennis where someone seems to hit the ball right every time. In that particular year, I seemed to get into the zone
Worst running moment I think the one that I regret the most was when I anchored the mile relay at the Drake Relays and couldn't overtake the lead runner because we had lost so much ground, and I was so far behind. That was a race where it would have been nice to finish up winning at all three relay meets – Texas, Kansas and Drakes – that would have been nice
Childhood dreams I can't remember if I had one
Funny memory one What bothered me the most at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the fear I had was because it rained a lot during those Olympics. It rained almost every day. Everybody came to the event with umbrellas. There was that little point on the end of the umbrella, and the little point came virtually to my eye level. I was always thinking someone was going to poke me in the eye
Funny memory two Billy Mills and his wife and I were going up to Tachikawa the day after Billy won his Olympic Gold Medal. Billy was a Marine, and I was in the Army, and Tachikawa was an air force base north of Tokyo we decided to visit. We were at the train station getting our tickets, and I said to Billy, ‘where's your gold medal?' I asked because there was a vault at the Olympic village where athletes could store their medals for safekeeping. Pat, his wife, said, ‘We didn't do that.' She pulled it out of her purse as she was carrying it with her
Favorite places to travel Europe, mainly because there are so many places to see and so many aspects of sports or art or culture