Thursday, February 25, 2010

Conquerors of Time Review (4)

Jamie McKay in The Southland Times, February 26, 2010:

On a winning note, former Southland Times sports editor Lynn McConnell really has struck gold with his Jack Lovelock book Conquerors Of Time.
As chronicled last week, the story revolves around the 1932-36 period and looks at the lives of Lovelock and his rivals for gold in the 1500m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
His two main rivals were the Italian Luigi Beccali (who won gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932) and the superstar American Glenn Cunningham, whom many considered the favourite for Berlin.
The chapter on Cunningham makes compelling reading. Growing up on a remote farm in Kansas, Cunningham triumphed over terrible childhood burns in 1917 that left one leg shorter than the other and took several years of constant self-massage before he was able to maintain balance, let alone run properly.
He escaped another childhood brush with death by hanging on to a cow's tail in a snow blizzard (a practice he'd developed during his recovery process to help regain his balance), the family cow getting him home safely to the barn when he would have otherwise perished.
Then in 1928, as his athletics career was starting to flourish, a high school baseball accident saw him ignore the ongoing pain of several loosened teeth.
It was only when he undertook a medical for entry into the US Navy at the advent of World War II that the full extent of the injury was realised.
His teeth were badly abscessed, the dentist saying with all that poison flowing into his system, it was a wonder he could walk during his athletic career, let alone run through the constant pain he'd wrongly associated to his legs.
For the record, Cunningham finished second to Lovelock in Berlin with Beccali third. Sports historians will thoroughly enjoy Conquerors Of Time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Conquerors of Time Review (3)

From: AthleticsWeekly, January 21, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Story of the 1936 Olympic 1500m is revisited by New Zealand writer


Lynn McConnell brings alive a golden era in middle-distance running that few people today were around to witness. Conquerors of Time is the story of the race to win the 1936 Olympic 1500m title – a classic confrontation won by Jack Lovelock of New Zealand.

The cast of athletes during the period was a who's who of milers. In addition to Lovelock, characters included: Glenn Cunningham, the world mile record holder from the United States; Luigi Beccali, the Italian who had won the 1932 Olympic 1500m gold; Jerry Cornes, the British runner-up in 1932; and Sydney Wooderson, the bespectacled hero of British athletics who would go on to break the world mile record in 1937.

McConnell's book charts the progress of these runners, plus others, from the 1932 Games in Los Angeles to the Berlin Olympics itself. It also looks at what happened to them after their athletics careers were over.

Such was the anticipation before the race in Berlin, the start was delayed slightly to allow Adolf Hitler to take his seat. The crowd was not disappointed either, as the race was won in style by Lovelock in a world record time.

This is a terrifically researched book and a glowing endorsement has also been given by former AW editor Mel Whatman, who recently reviewed the book in Athletics International and wrote: "Races at these distances are superbly reconstructed by Lynn McConnell, an award winning writer and editor from New Zealand who provides particularly acute insights into the career and personality of his compatriot thanks to reference to Lovelock's diaries.

"The other towering figures of that period are also well drawn and there is much for the enthusiast to savour in this 244-page paperback. It's a terrific, nostalgic story of the fascinating characters who contributed to an enchanting era in miling history."