Peter George Norman (pictured left) was an Australian track athlete best known for winning the silver medal in the 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. His time of 20.06 seconds still stands as the Australian 200 metres record. He is also known for his support of John Carlos and Tommie Smith when they made their famous raised-fist gesture at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony.
On the podium, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Smith and Carlos famously joined in a Black Power salute. Norman wore a badge on the podium in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR).
Australia’s Olympic authorities reprimanded him for his gesture and the Australian media ostracised him. Despite Norman running qualifying times for the 100 m five times and 200 m 13 times during 1971-72, the Australian Olympic track team did not send him, or any other male sprinters, to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the first modern Olympics since 1896 where no Australian sprinters participated.
Norman kept running, but in 1985 contracted gangrene after tearing his Achilles tendon during a charity race, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression, heavy drinking and pain killer addiction followed.
Norman quit athletics after the decision not to field a track & field men’s team in the 1972 Olympics and took up Australian rules football. He died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.
US Track and Field Federationproclaimed 9 October 2006, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman Day. Thirty-eight years after the three made history, both Smith and Carlos gave eulogies and were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral.
An airbrush mural of the trio on podium was painted in 2000 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney. The monochrome tribute, captioned “THREE PROUD PEOPLE MEXICO 68,” was under threat of demolition in 2010 to make way for a rail tunnel but is now listed as an item of heritage significance.
Thanks Maxine Tomlinson/ NeoMakeba