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Lindy Remigino — August, 2013
Lindy Remigino won two Olympic Gold Medals in 1952 at Helsinki, Finland in the 100 meters and 4 x 100 meter relay. He was undefeated at 100 meters at post-Olympic European track and field competitions. Lindy finished second in the 100 meters at the 1952 Olympic Trials. His many collegiate victories while competing for Manhattan College included the 1952 Millrose Games 60 yard dash and the 1953 IC4A 100 and 200 meters. While at Hartford Public High School, Remigino won Connecticut State titles in the 100 yard and 220 yard dashes his junior and senior years. In both years he also won the New England Championships at 100 yards. His Personal Best Times are: 50 yards – 5.2; 100 yards - 9.5; 100 meters - 10.4; 220 yards – 21.2. After his running career, Remigino became a high school coach at his alma mater. His Hartford Public High School teams won 31 state titles and produced 157 individual state champions, 40 relay champions, and 12 All-Americans in his 43 year career. Lindy has been inducted into eleven Halls of Fame including those of the New York Athletic Club, Connecticut State, Manhattan College and the National Federation of High Schools. He resides in Newington, Connecticut with his wife, June of 60 years. They have five children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
GCR:When you think back to over six decades ago when you won your first Olympic Gold Medal in the 1952 Olympic 100 meters in Helsinki, how special of a moment was it to stand on the podium, hear our National Anthem and to have an Olympic Gold Medal placed around your neck for the first time?
LRI had the emotion of most Americans as I was standing there with the other medalists Herb McKenley and Ian McDonald Bailey. We listened to the United States National Anthem before we received our medals. There were tears in my eyes as we waited for our medals. There weren’t any ribbons on the medals. They gave them to us in a little box. I thought about who I was running for. I was running for the United States. I was running for Manhattan College as I never would have got to the Olympics without Coach George Eastman and my teammates because we had to run hard every day. It’s like when there is a stable of great horses who run together. I had great horses to run with every day. I was running for my neighborhood and my family. These were all of the things I was running for. I wasn’t just running for the United States. These were the things that popped into my mind – my buddies, my school, the New York Athletic Club and Coach Tommy Quinn.
GCR:What was it like in Helsinki and living in the Olympic Village?
LRIt had been raining for a few days, but the day before we raced on July 20, 1952 it stopped and that was the day the heats and quarterfinals were scheduled. The Italian team had me come down to eat some meals with them since I was of Italian descent and could speak some Italian. We had tents where we ate and food was flown in from the United States. We had bread from California and meat from Colorado. Every day a plane would land with food for us. Our apartments were brand new. But someone stole my camera.
GCR:After winning your Olympic heat and quarterfinal and then finishing a close second to Jamaica’s Herb McKenley in your semifinal, were you feeling strong and confident that you had a bit more left for the final?
LRI won my first heat in 10.4 and I cruised that. I won my quarterfinal in 10.4. I could hear Americans cheering for me and also the Italians were cheering for me. I looked up and saw royalty in the stands. I think the King of England was there. Dean Smith ran 10.4; Herb McKenley ran 10.4 and Ian McDonald Bailey, the fastest man in the world won his heat in 10.4. It rained hard all night long and the next day was the semifinals and finals. There was no more sun again and the track which was made of clay was soaking wet. There were 80,000 people in the stands. Herb McKenley and I got out in front in the semis and then he got a step ahead of me. I caught him at the finish line and he beat me by no more than inches. I have a picture that proves he beat me. Some people thought I won the semifinal but I did not. I could feel it that he had beaten me.
GCR:Take us through the 100 meter final – first, what were you thinking as you got in the blocks?
LRIan McDonald Bailey, Dean Smith, Herb McKenley and I were all closely matched in the race so it was going to be between the four of us. I knew it would be tight as in sprints you don’t win by much. This was the Olympics, my friend. I was calm for two reasons - I had run in the Coliseum and felt the noise of 50,000 fans and had run in Madison Square Garden and been the Millrose Games champion in front of loud crowds. I knew I was a World Class runner. There was a small track under the stadium and I had done my warm ups. You could run up and down and do straightaways. Minutes before the race Herb McKenley came into my dressing room and I had a towel over me and was being restful before my race. Herb said, ‘Lindy you won’t believe this but Ian McDonald Bailey is ready to be had.’ I said, ‘Why?’ ‘He’s damn nervous,’ Herb responded. He cheered me up and I said, ‘so we have him out of the way, Herb?’ and Herb said, ‘I think we do.’ The rain stopped only moments before they called us out. They gave me a good lane by chance because I did not draw for that lane.
GCR:What type of shoes did you wear and how long were the spikes?
LRI wore crap. I wore a Becanta shoe that was experimental. I had four spikes under the toe box and nothing under the ball of my foot. I thought it was great as I was not a technician and had no idea. The sole of my shoe was floppy and I asked the coaches for a new shoe, but they told me they didn’t have any others and I’d have to buy my own somewhere. I didn’t know where to buy different shoes so I wore those crappy shoes. And the spikes themselves were golf spikes.
GCR:How was your start?
LRThe gun went off and I got a fairly decent start, but the fastest starter off the blocks was John Treloar of Australia. He had run in the 1948 Olympics and not made the final, but this time he was the first guy out. Dean Smith got a good start and Herb Mckenley, who was a very poor starter, was behind me.
GCR:You moved into the lead fairly early in the race. Could you tell that you had separated from the field and what was your focus mid-race?
LRI’d say that by 40 or 50 meters I was in front by a yard – I’m not kidding! If you look at the race video footage you can see I was definitely in front. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to win the Olympic Championship.’ And I felt that while I was running - that I was going to win because I was way ahead.
GCR:You leaned early and the field really closed on you. What caused this tactical error and could you tell you crossed the line in first place?
LRWith about 20 meters to go I started putting my chest out. I didn’t know how far I was away from the finish. Runners don’t always know. You should just go through the tape for twenty yards before you slow down, but I started sticking my chest out like I was going to win it. All of a sudden my steps got shorter and shorter and shorter because when you lean that is what happens.
GCR:What was the feeling as you and the other competitors walked around on the track waiting for results to be posted?
LRI thought I blew it as Herb McKenley was on top of me and finishing like a bullet. I thought I must have got second so I went over and congratulated Herb for winning the event. The tape was very tight when I hit it and Herb was unsure who won as I was right next to him. I looked at the scoreboard and there was nothing. For nearly twenty minutes the scoreboard was blank. I was getting nervous and was hoping I got a medal.
GCR:Describe what it was like when you saw your name as the first place finisher?
LRAfter about twenty minutes my name went up – first, Remigino, USA, 10.4; second, McKenley, Jamaica, 10.4; third, McDonald Bailey, Great Britain, 10.4; fourth, Smith, USA, 10.4; fifth, Sukharev, CCCP, 10.5 and sixth, Treloar, Australia 10.6. Then the Jamaican team wanted to file a protest. Their Coach was Joe Yancy of the Pioneer club who was an American. Joe and I were good friends and Joe said, ‘Lindy, we would like to see the photo.’ They went to the finish administration and I wanted to see the photo too. And, lo and behold, I did win by about an inch as my shoulder crossed just ahead of Herb who was very dejected at that time. Bur Herb did go on to get a Gold Medal running a 44.1 in the 4x400 meter relay as Jamaica beat the Americans.
GCR:So that one inch you won by had to be the most important inch of your entire life?
LRI guess it was. I never put it that way because I also won the Millrose Games by an inch. When you’re running sprints you don’t win by a yard! Herb was right when he told me about Ian McDonald Bailey being nervous before the race as he finished third. Ian was the World Record Holder at 10.2. Jesse Owens had run 10.2 in the 1936 Olympics but it was wind aided. Jesse’s World Record was 10.3 so I was thinking maybe we could run that fast even though the track was wet and there was a sprinkle of rain coming down.
GCR:You and your relay teammates, Dean Smith, Harrison Dillard and Andy Stanfield, won the 4x100 meter relay by only about two yards. Did your handoffs go smoothly, was the victory ever in doubt and how was it winning and sharing a Gold Medal with three teammates compared to winning an individual Gold Medal?
LRIn the trial heats we won very easily. We won in a breeze. When you think of having the Olympic Champion at 100 meters, the Olympic Champion at 200 meters, the 1948 Olympic Champion at 100 meters and Dean Smith who was a 100 meter finalist who was only maybe a foot behind in that race, we could drop the stick and win. We almost did – we almost dropped the stick! Dean Smith was talking with me about how bad our stick passing was in practice. We didn’t have Harrison Dillard there with us all of the time as he was getting ready for the 110 high hurdles. Why should he be there every day? He had a task to perform and that was to beat Jack Davis of USC in the hurdles and Jack Davis could run! Lo and behold I put a mark on the track with my foot of about seven yards to indicate when I should take off. You can’t do that nowadays with artificial modern tracks. So I drew my line and took off, but here came Harrison Dillard like gangbusters and he almost knocked me down. (Laughing) It was too short and I should have used twelve yards or ten yards. We got the stick off eventually, but right next to us were the USSR and the Hungarians. I ran a damn good leg and passed the stick to Andy Stanfield with a good yard-and-a-half. Andy yelled, ‘Lindy, Let go of the stick!’ I took time to pat him on the rump. So we won it handily and beat the Russians who were second and the Hungarians who were third.
GCR:Was it exciting to be a relay teammate of Harrison Dillard and to receive the baton from him since he won the 1948 London Olympics 100 meter Gold medal?
LRIt was exciting to receive the baton from Harrison because he was my hero.
GCR:How was the atmosphere for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics since it was the first time the Soviet Union was competing?
LRThere was a lot of tension. Everyone was waiting for some nut to come out and have a political demonstration, especially during the Opening ceremonies because the Finns hated the Russians. Finland had been occupied by Russia during World War II. The three four by 100 meter relay teams ran on the track afterward together and we were waving to everybody. This was before we got on the podium to receive our medals. I have a picture of that.
GCR:What else of the Olympic experience stands out including the Opening Ceremonies, other track and field competition or other events you may have attended?
LRI wanted to march in the Opening Ceremonies, but it was raining and Coach Clyde Littlefield said we couldn’t march. Dean Smith also wanted to march but the coach wouldn’t let us. I had tears in my eyes. Dean and I were very upset. The coach told us that since our heats and quarterfinals were the next day and the United States enters the stadium toward the end that we would have to stand in the rain for four hours if we marched in the Opening Ceremonies. We had to watch from the stands. The Russians were all in white with red ties and they dipped their flag. The Americans came in and it was a wonderful Opening ceremony – not like today, but a very simple beginning with dancing and music. I watched all of the track and field competitions.
GCR:You were in many ways an unlikely Olympic Gold Medalist since there were other sprinters on your college team with more notoriety and you only finished fifth in the 1952 NCAA 100 meters. Did you surprise yourself with your improvement during the 1952 racing season and can you please describe your Olympic Trials races?
LRFor the NCAA Nationals we ran in northern California, the track was terrible and all of the top runners were there – Jim Galliday, Art Bragg, Dean Smith and me were in the final, but my two teammates didn’t make it. I finished in fifth place even though I was very close to third and fourth place. I wasn’t close to Art Bragg or Jim Galliday. At the AAU Nationals Jack, Joe and I didn’t even make the finals as we got wiped out that night. The top six from NCAA Nationals qualified for the Olympic Trials along with the top six from AAU Nationals and the top finalists from the Armed Forces Championships. For the Olympic Trials I ran for the New York Athletic Club and was coached by Tommy Quinn. He said you will be in the final if you win your heat. I was in heat one, the gun goes off and I won the heat. I felt doggone good as I knew I could make the team if I finished in the top three in the next race which was the final. I wasn’t that far behind at the NCAAs and beat most of the guys who had beaten me. Jim Galliday pulled up lame and didn’t make the final but Dean Smith, Thane Baker and Art Bragg were all in there. Bragg could really run – believe me! The gun goes off and Art Bragg beat me by about a foot. Third place was tight between Dean Smith and James Gather and there was a dilemma as it was a tie that even the electronic timer couldn’t break. They were going to have a runoff. James said, ‘I have no chance to beat Art or Lindy at 100 meters and I have the 200 meter final coming up which is my better event, so I withdraw from the 100 meters. That made Dean happy as he was now on the Olympic team.
GCR:How exciting was it to make the U.S. Olympic team for you and your family?
LRIt was like I was being electrocuted as there was so much energy and excitement. My father had died when he was 62, but my mother was alive and I had a girlfriend by the name of June Haverty who is my wife today of sixty years who were very excited.
GCR:What training did you and the team do in preparation for the Olympics?
LRWe went to Princeton, New Jersey and trained very hard. Then we went to New York City, got our parade uniforms and there was a parade and speeches. Then we got our track and field uniforms with the red, white and blue and the Olympic Shield and that felt pretty good too. We flew to Newfoundland which was a rickety, old airport on a Pan Am plane and then went to London and to Finland where the sun was shining at midnight. They have daylight for maybe twenty-two hours in the summer so I trained three times a day. I trained very, very hard. The practice track was a cinder track. Harrison Dillard was there. The Finnish people recalled Harrison’s Gold medal exploits from the London games four years earlier and we would hear them saying with their accents, ‘Dill-LARD, Di-LARD.’ The Finnish people had seen very few black-skinned persons and they wanted to touch his skin. Harrison was wondering why they wanted to, but that was how it was as the Finns were all so white. All of the street signs were in Swedish and Finnish as Finland was a part of Sweden until they got their independence. The Olympic hymn for those Olympic Games was written by a man who was almost 100 years old and I loved that music.
GCR:What was your training like with the U.S. team in Helsinki and was your confidence increasing?
LRI did 150 yard sprints and gun starts every day. I don’t think I lost a single gun start at any practice and we would go for 40 or 50 yards and sometimes even 70 yards. I was in front every time and was gaining confidence every day. I knew I was going to be a factor in the Olympics because I had qualified as second American and Americans had a history of winning the event. It didn’t rain for all of my practices. The coaches were Brutus Hamilton of California, Clyde Littlefield of the University of Texas, Ohio State’s Coach Snyder who had coached Jesse Owens and Dean Smith’s Coach Cromwell was the head coach. I could run, believe me, and I was proving it in practice. Clyde Littlefield said, ‘Lindy, you’re running great. Lindy, you’re doing wonderful. Just keep it up.’
GCR:After the Olympics you dominated 100 meter races throughout Europe. Did this validate your Olympic Gold Medal and what are highlights of those post-Olympic races?
LRThe United States team administration let us pick among trips where we could race and I picked a northern route that started in Amsterdam and went to Glasgow, London, Edinburgh and Oslo. It was very interesting. We departed by plan and landed in Amsterdam where I won the 100 meters in about 10.6. It wasn’t as nice a track, but the Queen was there and she presented me with this beautiful wreath of flowers with a ribbon on it. I thought it was great to receive it from royalty. Then in Oslo, Norway which was the Bislett Games that is still being run today. There was a poor turnout as far as competition, but a 20 or 21 year old youngster jumped the gun or just had a way faster start than I did. I knew I had to catch him or he would tell everyone he beat the Olympic Champion. I won and the time was 10.2 which equaled the World Record, but I knew I wouldn’t get the record because the wind gauge was in the middle of the soccer field and it should have been right near the track. The official said they would send the time in to the international organization for ratification, but it was never ratified. The wind registered at 2.6 meters per second in the middle of the field and only 2.0 meters per second was allowed. If the gauge had been next to the track I would have got the record, but at least I did win the Bislett Games. In Edinburgh I ran the 120 meters on grass and ran a new meet record of 11.2 in qualifying with the wind howling behind me so the record didn’t count and won the final in 11.6 with the wind in my face. Then it was pouring rain with lightning and thunder and the officials stopped the meet saying we would run the last event, the 200 meters, when the lightning stopped. Herb McKenley was running it against me and I had no chance of winning and he knew that too. I was ahead and he wasn’t near me, but then I heard his heavy breathing and he went right by me. He didn’t beat me by much, but ran about a 20.7. He said afterward, ‘Good show lad!’ Afterward we had a thrill of visiting a real live castle and it was something - I could imagine Errol Flynn coming down the castle walls! Then in London it was like the Olympics again as all of the top runners were there for the 100 meters. I won over all of those guys again. I won every 100 meters I ran in post-Olympic competition.
GCR:How much recognition did you receive as the ‘World’s Fastest Human’ after the 1952 Olympics?
LRThere was a city parade for me in Hartford and a big dinner hosted by the Hartford Times newspaper. The City Council was there, my former principal was there, the Governor came and the mayor was there.
GCR:Who were some of the celebrities you met when you returned to the U.S.?
LRIt was so nice to be part of the team and to meet so many wonderful people. Back in the United States I met Gregory Peck’s wife just before the Coliseum Relays and danced with her. She was Miss Finland. I met Bob Mitchum’s wife and they were divorced. Everyone in California was divorced. I met George Steinbrenner and we became good friends. Every time there was a celebrity coming to Yankee Stadium over the years he would call me up and invite me to his suite. You can’t say no to George – you just go. Every time there was a big playoff game or celebrity I would be there next to George. I looked around one day and there was Donald Trump, Reggie Jackson, Regis Philbin and former Yankees like Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. When I asked George why I was there, he said, ‘Lindy, you’re my buddy.’ Do you know where I’m going this Sunday? I’m going to Yankee Stadium and will be in his suite.
GCR:Aren’t you still close with the Steinbrenner family and what are some memories of George?
LREven though George is no longer with us, I am close to the whole family – Jennifer, Joan Harold, Hank, the whole family. Surprising to many people is that they aren’t Jewish, but Presbyterians. He is now in a beautiful mausoleum in Tampa, Florida. He gave a lot of things away. He made the silver shields for widows of police officers. When Carnegie, Dr. Carnegie now, was swimming for the United States, that kid lost his father during the Olympic Games he walked by George looking down. George, who was the Vice-President of the Olympic Committee, said, ‘Why are you looking so dejected?’ Carnegie told George he lost his father. When George found out that now Carnegie wouldn’t be able to afford to go to medical school he told Carnegie he was now going to pay for his schooling. George also coached football at Northwestern University and was an assistant coach for the great quarterback Otto Graham who played for the Cleveland Browns. George Steinbrenner also ran the hurdles in high school and later coached track and field. George’s father, Steve Steinbrenner, was a great hurdler who won at the Penn Relays.
GCR:Have you returned to other Olympic Games since your participation in 1952?
LRI went back to the 1996 Olympics with Ray Lombard of the NYAC, I went to Montreal in 1976 and I went to Sydney, Australia in 2000. In Sydney I did a ‘Legends Walk’ with 1972 100 Meter Gold Medalist Valery Borzov. I was going to go to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and there was a deal where former Olympic Gold medalists were going to be in the Opening Ceremonies and wear gold jackets, but that never happened. So, I didn’t have any tickets. The meet director decided he didn’t want us there.
GCR:What are some other events you have been invited to as former Olympic Champion and ‘World’s Fastest Human?’
LRI went back to Helsinki in 2002. I was asked to come back by the City of Helsinki. When I got there I sat with Jacques Rogge from Belgium who was the head of the International Olympic Committee. I carried the American flag at their celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1952 Games. That was very nice. In November of 2012 I was invited to Barcelona for the 100th anniversary of the IAAF and there was a reunion of over 100 Gold medalists. Usain Bolt was there, Donovan Bailey was there and so was Harrison Dillard. In 1986 and 1996 there were get-togethers with all of the ‘World’s Fastest Humans’ at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. They came from all over the world for the Jesse Owens Dinner which was run very beautifully by Herb Douglas who was a Pittsburgh long jumper and Bronze medalist at the 1948 Olympic Games. I would say the fastest human at that time was Bobby Hayes who is deceased now. With my judgment as a coach and former sprinter Bob Hayes was the fastest guy I ever saw in my life. He was a streak of lightning.
GCR:Did Usain Bolt enjoy meeting you and Harrison since you each are Olympic 100 meter Gold Medalists?
LRYes, he enjoyed it. My head only came to his shoulder blades. He’s six foot, five inches. When the gun goes off no one can catch him as his stride must be ten yards long. I’m only kidding, but it’s got to be way out there.
GCR:Didn’t you develop a special relationship and bond with Herb McKenley who you just nipped for that Gold Medal?
LRI have great memories of Herb and he was one of the greatest runners ever as far as I am concerned. He could run anything from 60 meters to 400 meters and probably even 600 meters. He even won a Gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay. Herb McKenley introduced Harrison Dillard to his future wife. I went back to Jamaica three times. One time when Herb and I were in advanced years we had a fun race over a distance of about twenty yards. We couldn’t have run much further because Herb was kind of rickety at that time and his legs weren’t that strong any more. They played the theme music from ‘Chariots of Fire.’ We mimicked our Olympic race. That was how we planned it. We had starting blocks. It was at Jamaica’s National Stadium and fans came right to the edge of the field. I was there because my son was running in a few hours for Manhattan College in an international meet. They had asked me to show them how I won the Olympic 100 meters back in 1952. The gun went off, people were yelling and screaming, ‘Herb McKenley, Herb McKenley, Herb, Herb!’ They were even betting Herb would win. Then they announced, ‘According to the electric timing, Lindy Remigino has won.’ Then there was booing and they started throwing vegetables at me. Herb and I became very good buddies. Herb and I also had lunch with the great Jamaican runner, Dr. Arthur Wendt, and we renewed our friendship. They also came to the Penn Relays and we had lunch at Ben Franklin Field. Herb was very weak and was losing weight. He was sick and then he had a stroke. They pronounced him dead, and then he came back to life and hung in there for a few months before he finally died.
GCR:What are some fond memories of any other Olympic teammates and competitors?
LRDean Smith also played football and later on became a movie actor who did movies with James Gardner and John Wayne. He had speaking parts, but mostly did stunts. I just saw him in a film on TV the other day. Dean Smith and I became good friends. I met him in New York one time with his first wife and family. Then his wife died after being bedridden from an automobile accident so he remarried and had a second family and all of the kids are grown up now. Dean Smith hasn’t changed one bit. He could run, believe me and was a good actor. James Gardner and Dean were very good friends. Dean could take a fall from a building, land on his back and do a somersault. He could stand riding on a horse. I stayed at John Treloar’s house in 2000 during the Sydney Olympics. John passed away about two years ago.
GCR:Let’s go back to your teenage years. Were you an athletic youth, what sports did you play and how did you start competitive running?
LRI also played football though I didn’t play it until my senior as, frankly, I was too light. I weighed 138 pounds and was fast in the backfield, but I got hit a few times and they carried me back to the bench. I did score a couple touchdowns against Buckley High School and we won by three touchdowns. The other team couldn’t catch me once I went around the end because I was faster than anyone on the field.
GCR:How did you get started in the sprints and do you recall your first big win?
LRI ran the 100 yard dash for him for Coach Larry C. Amann three years in 1947 through 1949. I started as a sophomore as my freshman year I went to Bonner Junior High School. The first major competition was, believe it or not, 440 yards indoors. I ran that and the only way I could get to the finish line was to crawl because I went out too fast. I threw myself onto the Armory floor. My brother was watching from the balcony and he told me that early in the race he thought, ‘My brother is going to win this handily.’ Then my legs turned to rubber and I collapsed. That was my first experience running and I went to Coach Amann and told him ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. Is there a better event for me like maybe the 50 yard dash?’ He laughed and said, ‘No, Dick Bestleton will run that. He’s a senior and will run that.’ When we got to outdoor track to the Greater Hartford Track meet at Trinity College there were about ten high schools competing. The gun went off and the winning time was 10.3 seconds. At that time there was a tape and no electric timing. Well, I won that race, won it the next year in 10 seconds flat and my senior year in 9.9 seconds.
GCR:You improved each year at the Connecticut State Meet. Could you take us through your performances in each of your three high school years?
LRIn the state meet my sophomore year I only made it to the semifinals which was pretty good considering I was a skinny 126 pounds. The following year I won the event in 9.9 seconds and I did the same thing my senior year. The amazing thing my Senior year is that I won the New England Championships in 9.8 seconds which was a New England Record. The winning time I did my senior year at 220 yards at Yale University was 21.2. Looking at the facts, the winning time by Mel Patton from Southern Cal, who was one of my heroes, was 21.0. To make the facts even straighter my time was on a 220 yard straightaway and his was around a turn. I would have been no match for Mel Patton. I was out in front pretty good in all of those races. Indoors I ran the 50 yard dash without spikes in 5.3 seconds. It was the fastest high school time, but wasn’t recognized as a record because 50 yards wasn’t the official distance. The only time I ran faster than that was in Philadelphia in 1954 when I ran 5.2 seconds which tied the meet record. I did that out of a starting gate where there were straps on our shoulders and you couldn’t run until the starting gun went off and they were released.
GCR:How did the 1948 Olympics impact you when you were still in high school and what amazing things transpired between being a fan of Harrison Dillard that year and a good friend in the future?
LRI dreamt about going to the Olympics when I was a junior and wished I could run like Harrison Dillard who became a hero of mine. You know something – four years later he passed the stick to me on the relay in the Olympics. He has been a house guest here twice. Every time we have a reunion Harrison and I are together. We became very close friends. His wife even visited us a few times.
GCR:What were the best things your high school coach did for you to help you grow from raw talent to State Champion?
LRLarry Amann was a swimming coach and was a great one for conditioning. Hartford Public School won something like fifteen straight state championships in swimming under his coaching. In track and field he coached two state championship teams indoors and five or six outdoors. When I look back, he wasn’t really having us do the right things. We did a lot of distance stuff like repeat 800 meters. He also had us practice ‘gun starts.’ I also did some 150s on my own. He didn’t stop me from running cross country which probably wasn’t good as the long miles can cause a runner to not use his fast twitch muscles and lose his speed. I did get a lot of good conditioning coaching from Larry such as doing 150 sit-ups. His swim teams wouldn’t hit the water for two months in the off-season as they did many, many sit-ups and pushups. He never patted you on the back. He believed the most important thing was not the physical, but the psychological aspect. He would get us revved up for competition.
GCR:Do any other competitions stand out from your high school days?
LRAt the New England Championships a runner could only run one individual event and one relay. So I was fast enough to win the 100 and 220 yard dashes but could only run one and I chose the 100. The first year I won in the pouring rain in New Hampshire. The following year it was a dry day and we ran at Yale University. I ran 9.8 and it was on a dirt track. I ran a 6.5 for 60 yards indoors to win a Connecticut State Championship. We ran indoors without spikes.
GCR:How did you decide to go to Manhattan College and did you consider other schools?
LRI was interested in going to a factory that made boxes for $25.00 a week and not going to college. I didn’t like school particularly and didn’t have any money to attend college. My parents weren’t poor, but lived in an apartment house and had some money in the bank. My dad was a chef and had been one in London and on an English steamer that went to South Africa. So I was not planning on going to school, but was going to join my mother who was working at the box shop. When the New England Championship Meet was approaching my senior year, it was the same day as the Senior Prom. So I said to me coach, ‘How can I go to the Senior Prom if it is on the same day as New England’s?’ He said, ‘You can’t. You’ll have to make a choice.’ Anyway, I made the choice to run New England’s. I couldn’t afford to buy a class ring as I didn’t have the money, but somehow I managed to scrape up enough money to buy my Class Book as I wanted it and I had many friends who signed it. With my winning time of 9.8 in the New England 100 yard dash and having run a 21.2 straightaway for 220 yards, several people came up to me about running in college. I told them that I didn’t have the grades to go to college, didn’t want to go to school and couldn’t care less about it. But George Eastman came and talked to me. He was a Georgetown-educated lawyer who was teaching pre-law at Manhattan College where he was also the track coach. He asked me to come to Manhattan College, but I told him I didn’t have the necessary grades. Then he asked about my course work in high school and I told him I took French, College English, and History and that I barely passed Geometry. He said I didn’t have to worry about it as I already would have college credits if I could pass a test. The first time I actually saw Manhattan College was in September of 1949 and it was high on a hill in the Bronx. I passed the test rather handily and my first year I took Chemistry which was four hours on a Friday and I just barely passed that class. I did well in my other subjects and moved on.
GCR:How strong were the sprinters that Coach Eastman was able to recruit for Manhattan?
LRGeorge Eastman was recruiting well as he brought in the fastest runner from New Jersey, Jack O’Connell who stood only five feet, four inches. At six feet two or three he brought in the New York State Champion, Joe Schatzel. Then I was the Connecticut State Champion and Bob Carty was already there. So he did some recruiting! We had some fast dudes on that team! We won the Penn Relays and went to the Coliseum Relays in Los Angeles where we beat, USC, Texas and UCLA. We ran 1:24.4 for the half mile relay on a dirt track.
GCR:How did having great sprinters as college teammates help you as you trained with the best but also make it tough as you were only the third best sprinter on your team?
LRI owe most of my success of being a fast guy to the fact that I ran every day against Jack O’Connell and Joe Schatzel. They made me run in practice. In my junior year in 1952 Manhattan College ran in five indoor meets in Madison Square Garden. The Millrose Games, the NYAC Games, the IC4As, the Nationals and the Knights of Columbus Games. Guess who won those five meets in the 60 yard dashes? Runners from Manhattan College won all five. I won the Millrose Games and my teammate Jack O’Connell beat me by one inch at the Indoor IC4As. The following week at Nationals Jack O’Connell won that event and I finished a very poor fourth. Then the next week I beat Jack by about two inches at the Knights of Columbus meet. In outdoor season Jack was not that fast since he was five foot four, though he would always make the finals.
GCR:Wasn’t the IC4A Outdoor 100 yard dash a memorable race for unusual reasons that year?
LRAt the IC4As at Randall’s Island where now they run the Adidas Track Classic on that nice track, we ran the 100 yards and Jack, Joe and I all made the final so we figured we were going to score some points. John George from California was also in the race and before the gun went off he took off. The gun went off, I stood up, stopped and waited for the gun to sound again and call us back. Joe Shatzel yelled, ‘Lindy, Let’s Go!’ I said, ‘What for?’ and he replied, ‘They’re not sounding the gun again.’ This all took place in tenths of seconds. We were frozen for a tenth or two. It ended up that I finished third and I was ready to win that event as I was in great shape. In the 200 meters later on I beat both of them by a mile and Peter Dow of Harvard may have gotten second. My teammates and I became bosom buddies and I owe a lot to them.
GCR:What were some of the key training workouts you did under Coach Eastman?
LRGeorge Eastman had me do the right things. He had me running 200s. Sometimes we would do ten 200s. Sometimes we would do seven 200s. We worked on starts for the 60 and the 100 which was very good as you can’t be last off of your blocks in either one of those events. Sometimes he had us do 500s or 300s for strength. We also did a lot of fast straightaways to warm up and to finish practice.
GCR:After the high of winning two Gold Medals in the 1952 Olympics was it a bit of a letdown to return to regular life and how hard was it to get ready for the 1953 IC4A and NCAA Championships?
LRI just went about it like I always did and the next year I won two Gold Medals in the IC4A 100 and 200 meters.
GCR:After you graduated in 1953 did you start teaching and coaching that fall?
LRI got a telegram from Joe Garrigan who was the head of P.E. at Hartford High School asking me if I wanted as job. I told him I did and he said I would be teaching physical education and coaching track and field. It was fairly simple for me because I went back to the same high school I graduated from. To give you an idea about my school, it goes back to 1638 and was founded by Thomas Hooker who founded Hartford, Connecticut. It was started in a very simple way as he taught Latin to a group of students on the back porch and Hartford Public School was born. I went back to that school and it was huge. It stood on the corner of Farmington Avenue, Hopkins Street and Broad Street. It was a palatial building that looked like a castle in England with Errol Flynn dueling or someone chasing Frankenstein’s monster. Most of the students who graduated went to Princeton, Harvard and Yale. For the first three years after I returned I taught Physical Education and First Aid. I carried the bag of Larry C. Amann, the track and cross country coach, and was his assistant for three years before taking over.
GCR:Was it difficult to keep training while you were now working full time teaching and coaching?
LRYou bet it was. I had some good performances and some bad ones, but I am not using it as an excuse. However, one week before the 1956 Olympic Trials I beat Andy Stanfield at a track where they built the new Yankee Stadium a few years ago. Then I got sick – very sick. I spent four days in bed with a fever and then had to fly to Los Angeles for the Olympic Trials. I was so sick on the plane that I threw up 25 times. When I got to the Olympic Trials I was a mummy.
GCR:You finished second to Bobby Morrow in the 100 meters at the 1953 Nationals and saw him dominate the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the 1956 Olympic Trials.. What type of runner and competitor was he since he ended up winning three sprint Golds at the 1956 Olympics?
LRBobby Morrow beat all of us in track meets before we got to the Olympic Trials. Bobby Morrow was unbelievable. He was fantastic. He was a heck of a runner. He would accelerate from the blocks and just keep on going. Some people have a start and a pickup. He had a whoosh and was the fastest guy I ever ran against.
GCR:You made a career of teaching and coaching track and cross country. Did you love the sport so much that it just had to remain forever a large part of your life?
LRThat is exactly how it was. What you said is right. I loved it. I knew a lot about track and field and had to learn about the field events. I studied the discus, javelin and pole vault. I knew the other events pretty well. I could throw a shot put even when I was in high school. At that time the glide method was just starting to be used by Parry O’Brien and was slowly being adopted.
GCR:In over four decades coaching at Hartford your teams won over 30 state championships and athletes you coached won over 150 state titles. What was it about your leadership and coaching that helped so many teams and athletes perform so outstanding?
LRYes, when I was coaching we won 31 state championships with 157 state individual championships. It was easy because kids were doing the workouts as soon as I put them up on the bulletin board. They were inspired and followed track and field pretty well.
GCR:What was more fulfilling to you – winning those two Olympic Gold Medals or harnessing their magic to inspire others to believe that if a five foot six skinny kid could do it, then maybe they could too?
LRThat is a question that is hard to answer because I like both as they are both important to me. Coaching at Hartford High School, the second oldest school in the country was a privilege to me. I owe a lot of my being successful to Larry Amann, my coach, and the kids I ran against. Coaching the kids is important and so is winning championships.
GCR:How exciting was it to develop your runners to compete at the national level?
LRI had ten kids qualify for the Golden West Meet when I coached and that was at the time the mythical national championship. One was Gene Tetrell who has passed away and he ran in 1:51.6 which was a national record in 1962. He ran against Gregory Peck’s son who was a heckuva runner. Gene won the Golden West in 1:51.6 again and Gregory Peck’s son was third. Gene would call me in the evenings as he was a youth who needed guidance and I liked helping him achieve in running. Later on he was inducted into the Hartford High School Hall of Fame and, unfortunately, he died as a fairly young man in his sixties.
GCR:You coached your son, Michael, who was a sub-1:50 high school 800 meter runner in 1987. How different was it coaching your own son and were the two of you able to separate the father-son relationship from the coach-athlete relationship during track practice and meets?
LRI’m glad you brought up Michael as we were father and son but also good friends because we were together all of the time. Michael could run 2:03 for 880 yards when he was in grammar school. But he broke his femur when he was twelve and spent almost a month in the hospital. So I thought all of his talent was going down the drain. Michael went on to win the State Championship in high school but at the Golden West meet he ran against George Kersch. George ran 1:46 and Michael was 25 yards behind in 1:49. I told him that there was nothing to be sad about and he smiled and said, ‘Yes dad, but I still got fourth.’ He was the Connecticut State record holder for 15 or 16 years until someone ran 1:48.
GCR:You have been inducted into at least eleven Halls of Fame including the Manhattan College Sports HOF, the NYAC HOF, the Hartford Public High School HOF and the Italian American Sports HOF. How does it feel to be so honored and are there any honors that stand out?
LRMy own Connecticut State Hall of Fame is as important as the New York Athletic Club. The National Federation of High Schools is the governing body in the United States and they inducted me. When I looked at the list of other people who were inducted it looked like a ‘Who’s Who in Sports’ because anyone who was a great golfer or baseball player or in any sport is in there as they were all great in high school. There are major league baseball players and Masters Golf Champions in there. Bob Matthias, my Olympic teammate who died of cancer, is in there.
GCR:You recommended that your 1952 Olympic teammate and fellow Italian American, Charlie Capozzoli, be inducted into the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame, which he was in 2009. I was honored and privileged to interview Charlie earlier this year which, unfortunately, ended up being his final interview as he passed away less than three weeks afterward. What can you tell us about this kind man and great runner, Charlie Capozzoli?
LR(shocked) Charlie died? That is heartbreaking as I didn’t know he died. I interviewed him to be in the New York AC Hall of Fame as I am on the Board of Directors. He was a wonderful guy and very devout as you could tell. He wanted to go to heaven to see his wife and his son. I remember Charlie going to religious places when his son was very sick before he died. My teammate in college, Joe Schatzel, did the same thing when he had a boy about 12 or 13 who was very ill. He went all over the world to seek intercession from heaven.
GCR:After you retired from competitive World Class sprinting what did you do for fitness and did you participate in later years in some age group competition?
LRI never got into age group competition as I was too busy coaching cross country and track, both indoor and outdoor. I coached my son and my daughters. My daughter, Betty, who became the track coach at the University of Connecticut was running marathons and ran around a 3:03 to win a marathon when she was about 28 years old.
GCR:What do you do now for health and fitness?
LRI ran until I was 74 years old. I ran the West Hartford Reservoir four to seven miles a day for fun and fitness. The furthest I ever ran was nine miles. I loved running at the reservoir as I would see deer and hawks out there. I would run as long as an hour some days before I got home. It was good for my cardiovascular fitness, but wore out my body. There were a lot of hills and they wore out my hips, knees and feet. My hips got so bad that I had to get hip replacement surgeries on both of them. At one time when I was hurt I ballooned up to about 180 pounds and I looked like a fat man. So I watched my weight and got it down. Now I do a lot of gardening and mow my own lawn which takes me quite long. I have a pool in my back yard that I care for but don’t use it that much. That’s about it as I can’t do much with two titanium hips.
GCR:What excites you and what goals do you have for your family life, fitness and helping others?
LRWe like to travel and have been to Bermuda five times and to Hawaii about four or five times. In fact on the last trip home from Hawaii in 2010 we found out the news that George Steinbrenner had passed away which broke my heart.
GCR:What are the major lessons you have learned during your life from growing up during the Great Depression and World War II years, the discipline of athletics, coaching others and any adversity you have faced that you would like to share with my readers?
LRIt is important to not be just a taker, but to be a giver. Give because you have something important to give - not to get something back. That is something I learned from my membership in the New York Athletic Club. It is run mainly by millionaires but you would never know it as most are devout athletes in their sport whether it was fencing, gymnastics, track and field, swimming, water polo or rowing. Many members give because they have something very important to give about their sport and that is knowledge of that sport.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsThe gardening I do is mainly cutting the grass. I do maintain our pool and keep a good pool. You can see the bottom! (laughing)
Nicknames‘Lindy’ is my real name as I was named after Charles Lindbergh. My brother was named Rudolph Valentino Remigino. As a kid I was called ‘The Flash’ and ‘Speedy’
Favorite actors and moviesI like Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, but they are all gone now. ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Summer Place’ are favorites
Favorite TV showsMy favorite now is ‘The Big Bang.’ I also like ‘Two and a Half Men.’ I watch the ‘Diamond League’ track meets. Years ago I passed out medals at some of them in Berlin when they were the ‘Golden League’ meets. Harrison Dillard and I were passing out medals and then the winner of a series of meets got a real gold bar. I was too much of a fan of television in the old days, stayed up late and liked ‘All in the Family’
Favorite musicI like Verdi, the opera, classical music and contemporary music. Much of John Williams’ music is wonderful. He has even done ‘The Mission’ which is used as the NBC News theme, the 1988 Olympics music and the Olympic Heroes songs. Another one used daily is James Horner’s CBS news theme. Max Steiner wrote ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Summer Place’ music which is great. Percy Faith gets credit for much music, but he was usually the arranger, not the composer
Favorite booksI’m not a big reader. My wife reads a book about every week. I like to read Track and Field News and items on the internet by Walt Murphy. There are some books written about me. There was one written by a guy with London television. He came in with a camera. The book was called ‘The Fastest Humans’
First car1941 Ford
Current carI drive a 2006 Caravan and my wife has an Infinity
First JobI worked for General Electric in the parts Department. Then I worked at a Stop n’ Shop stacking cans. I worked for my father-in-law at Haverty Construction. He did work on roads and driveways
FamilyMy wife, June Haverty, and I were married in 1953 after I graduated from college and we have been married for sixty years. I’m 82 and she is 80. Our anniversary was beautifully done by our son and four girls. Kathy lives in Florida where she just bought a home. She ran the hurdles when she was young and is a very good golfer. Betty is an athletic director who lives in West Hartford. Linda lives in Virginia. Patty lives in Glassburg, Connecticut and she is in the administrative part of education. She was a teacher and just got a job as a mentor of teachers which is an upgrade in position. We have ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. My son is Michael who was a great high school runner and is a scratch golfer. His son, my grandson, is only twelve years old and is one of the best runners in the country. He runs in the USA track junior Olympic program. He runs the 3000 meters and mile. For his age he has to run against older kids up to age 14. At age 12 and a half he ran the nationals in St. Louis and got fifth of sixth place and got a medal for that. The winning time was around 9:06 and he was around 9:29. My wife has very bad arthritis – at least we hope it is just arthritis as she is having a serious medical issue. She is a very good golfer who has beaten my son once. When she was 70 years old she shot a 68 once
Family HistoryMy father married his sister – does that shock you?! How that happened is that my father was an orphan who was left on the doorstep of the Strada family. His mother was unknown as she got pregnant by a soldier in northern Italy and this young child was left on the doorstep in the county of Torino. The family saw the child, took him in and brought him up. They called him Stefano. He fell in love with their daughter, Rose Strada, and they were not related in any way. Rose Strada was my mother. So he married his ‘sister’ in his adoptive family. He brought his darling wife to Corona in New York and his name is on the record at Ellis Island where immigrants arrived in New York. I had an older brother who was nine years old when we moved to Hartford as my father got a job as a chef there. To tell you the truth at that time my brother could run faster than me. He was four years older, but he could run like a deer. He joined the Navy and I did not because the war came to an end. He was a Seabee and a good swimmer
PetsI love cats and, unfortunately, lost one at age 21 and one at 15. We have a two year old female Shi-Tzu now called Dixie who is part of our family. She loves my wife. That dog is smart and is something else, but it cost my family a thousand dollars to buy her
Favorite breakfastI have cold cereal and a danish
Favorite mealI don’t like meat like I used to. It got me in trouble and I had heart stints put in. I thought I was having indigestion but I was having a heart attack. I was eating too much meat. I like pasta of any kind and chicken stuffed with broccoli
Favorite beveragesIced tea
First running memoryThe first one has to be the one in high school when I ran the 440 yard dash and threw up. That almost made me quit track or at least I moved to a different event
Running heroesHarrison Dillard and Mel Patton
Greatest running momentWinning in the Olympics had to be the greatest achievement of my life. Not too many people can say they won a Gold Medal in the Olympics. (I kiddingly said it may be the second greatest achievement after getting his wife to say ‘Yes’ when he asked her to marry him and following is his response). That’s true (laughing) I didn’t have any trouble with that because we loved each other. Asking her father, Mr. Haverty, for her hand was tougher
Worst running momentI was sick at the 1956 Olympic Trials but can’t use that as an excuse because Bobby Morrow would have beaten me anyway. And Andy Stanfield was in great shape at the time but he only finished third. Thane Baker hung around for four extra years and he got second in the Olympic Games. Thane could run very well. He is from Kansas and lives in Texas now and is a very good friend of Peter Snell. Peter was with me in Barcelona for the IAAF reunion and so were Kip Keino and Seb Coe
Childhood dreamsI dreamt of running in the Olympics. In my high school class book they have that ‘Lindy will be in the Olympics.’ I think they were kidding because I was dreaming about it, but they put that in there. That’s a true story as it’s in black and white in my class book
Funny memoryWhen I was teaching and coaching after a while due to the age factor people who weren’t born when I competed didn’t recognize that I was an Olympic Champion. A kid came out for the track team when I was about 42 years old and he said he wanted to run the 100 and 220 yard dashes. Jokingly I said, ‘You’ll have to beat me first.’ He said, ‘Okay, Coach. Let’s do it.’ All of the other kids started laughing because they knew who I was. We went to the starting line and he lined up next to me to run 60 yards. I ran 6.5 seconds hand-timed. I won handily and all of the kids were laughing and shouting, ‘Coach is Olympic Champion!’ I felt bad and told him if it was 100 yards he would have beaten me
Embarrassing momentI didn’t bring my right uniform shirt for a race at Madison Square garden and I had to wear a plain white shirt. The coach did not like that. I ran poorly that day too. I was upset as I wanted to wear my Manhattan green and white
Favorite places to travelI like Hawaii the best. In 2010 we were there with my son and his family. Every winter we go to southwest Florida in Englewood near Venice. I always go to a Yankees Spring Training game with free tickets from the Steinbrenner family