Peter Norman

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Peter Norman
Peter Norman.jpg
Personal information
Full namePeter George Norman
Born(1942-06-15)15 June 1942
Coburg, Victoria, Australia
Died3 October 2006(2006-10-03) (aged 64)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Height1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Weight73 kg (161 lb)
ClubEast Melbourne Harriers[1]
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)20.06 s (200 m, 1968)[1]

Peter George Norman (15 June 1942 – 3 October 2006) was an Australian track athlete. He won the silver medal in the 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, with a time of 20.06 seconds. This remains an Oceanian record.[2] He was a five-time national 200-metres champion.[3]

Norman is probably best known as the third athlete pictured in the famous 1968 Olympics Black Power salute photograph, which occurred during the medal ceremony for the 200-metre event. He wore a badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights in support of fellow athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Norman was not selected for the 1972 Summer Olympics and retired from the sport soon after.[4]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Norman grew up in a devout Salvation Army family[5] living in Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria. Initially an apprentice butcher, Norman later became a teacher, and worked for the Victorian Department of Sport and Recreation towards the end of his life.[6]

During his athletics career Norman was coached by Neville Sillitoe.[5]

1968 Summer Olympics[edit]

The 200 metres event at the 1968 Olympics started on 15 October and finished on 16 October; Norman won his heat in a time of 20.17 seconds, which was briefly an Olympic record.[7] He won his quarter-final and was second in the semi-final.

On the morning of 16 October, US athlete Tommie Smith won the 200-metre final with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds.[8][9] Norman finished second in a time of 20.06 s, after catching and eventually passing U.S. athlete John Carlos at the finish line. Carlos finished in third place in 20.10 s. Norman's time was his all-time personal best[1] and an Oceanian record that still stands.

Later career[edit]

Norman represented Australia at the 1969 Pacific Conference Games in Tokyo, and the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.[10]

Norman retired from athletics after missing the 1972 Olympic team.[11]

Before the 1968 Olympics, Norman was a trainer for the West Brunswick Australian rules football club as a way of keeping fit over winter during the athletic circuit's off season. He played 67 games for West Brunswick from 1972 to 1977 before coaching an under 19 team in 1978.[citation needed]

In 1985, Norman 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.[12]

After battling depression, Norman worked at Athletics Australia as a sports administrator until 2006.[2]


Norman died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.[13] The US Track and Field Federation proclaimed 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.[6] At the time of his death, Norman was survived by his second wife, Jan, and their daughters Belinda and Emma, his first wife, Ruth, and children Gary, Sandra and Janita and four grandchildren.[5]

Black power salute[edit]

Medal ceremony[edit]

The Black Power salute by Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos. Norman (left) wears an OPHR badge in solidarity with them.

After the 200 metres final, the three athletes went to the medal podium for their medals to be presented by David Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter. On the podium, during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner", Smith and Carlos famously joined in a Black Power salute. This salute was later described in Tommie Smith's autobiography as a human rights salute, not a Black Power salute.

Norman wore a badge on the podium in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). After the final, Carlos and Smith had told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. As journalist Martin Flanagan wrote: "They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, said he believed strongly in God. We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, 'I'll stand with you'. Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes. He didn't; 'I saw love'."[14] On the way to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the OPHR badge being worn by Paul Hoffman, a white member of the US rowing team, and asked him if he could wear it.[13] It was Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair at the Olympic Village.[4] This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left.

Treatment between 1968–1972[edit]

After the salute, Norman's career suffered greatly. A 2012 CNN profile said that "he returned home to Australia a pariah, suffering unofficial sanction and ridicule as the Black Power salute's forgotten man. He never ran in the Olympics again."[11] Commentators say he was not selected for the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 despite recording qualifying times, and was not welcomed even 32 years later at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.[15][16][17] Carlos later stated that "If we [Carlos and Smith] were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone."[16][17]

The Australian Olympic Committee maintains that Norman was not selected for the 1972 Olympics because he did not meet the selection standard which entailed an athlete equalling or bettering the Olympic qualifying standard (20.9)[18] and performing creditably at the Australian Athletics Championships.[19] Norman ran several qualifying times from 1969–1971[10] but he finished third in the 1972 Australian Athletics Championships behind Greg Lewis and Gary Eddy in a time of 21.6.[10]

Contemporary reports show mixed opinion on whether Norman should have been sent to the Munich Olympics. After coming third in the trials, Norman commented: "All I had to do was to win, even in a slow time, and I think I would have been off to Munich".[20] The Age correspondent wrote Norman "probably ran himself out of the team at the National titles"—but also noted he was injured—and continued, "If the selectors do the right thing, Norman should still be on the plane to Munich."[20] On the other hand, Australasian Amateur Athletics' magazine stated "The dilemma for selectors here was how could they select Norman and not Lewis. Pity that Peter did not win because that would have been the only requirement for a Munich ticket".[21]


For his involvement as an ally in the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute protest, he has appeared in many works of public art, as well as movies on the subject.

  • An airbrush mural of the trio on podium was painted in 2000 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney.[a] Silvio Offria, who allowed an artist known only as "Donald" to paint the mural on his house in Leamington Lane, said that Norman came to see the mural, "He came and had his photo taken, he was very happy."[23] The monochrome tribute, captioned "THREE PROUD PEOPLE MEXICO 68", was under threat of demolition in 2010 to make way for a rail tunnel[23] but is now listed as an item of heritage significance.[24]
  • On 17 October 2003, San Jose State University unveiled a statue commemorating the 1968 Olympic protest; Norman was not included as part of the statue itself, as he insisted that his place be left unoccupied so that others viewing the statue could "take a stand" against racism; however, he was invited to deliver a speech at the ceremony.[6]
  • Norman's nephew Matt Norman directed, produced, and wrote the documentary film Salute (2008), about him and his role in the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute. Paul Byrnes, in his Sydney Morning Herald review of Salute, said that the documentary makes it clear why Norman stood with the other two athletes. Byrnes writes, "He was a devout Christian, raised in the Salvation Army [and] believed passionately in equality for all, regardless of colour, creed or religion—the Olympic code".[25] In October 2018, Matt Norman with the help of journalist Andrew Webster released his uncle's official biography The Peter Norman Story.
  • In September 2016, a statue of Norman on the 1968 medal podium with Smith and Carlos was unveiled at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.[26]
  • During the building of Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, Athletics Australia in partnership with the Victorian Government announced the erecting of a bronze statue of Norman to honour Norman's legacy as an athlete and advocate for human rights. They will also enshrine 9 October as Peter Norman Day within their organisation.[27] It was unveiled on 9 October 2019 at the Albert Park athletics track, Melbourne.[28]

Posthumous apology[edit]

In August 2012, the Australian House of Representatives debated a motion to provide a posthumous apology to Norman.[29][30][31] The chamber passed an official apology motion on 11 October 2012, which read:[32]


The order of the day having been read for the resumption of the debate on the motion of Dr Leigh— That this House:

(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the 'black power' salute;
(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the treatment he received upon his return to Australia, and the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006; and
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.

The original plan for the apology had point (3) state that the House: 'apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying'. This acknowledgement of a punitive reaction by Australia to his support of Smith and Carlos was omitted from the final apology.[33][34]

In a 2012 interview advocating for the apology, Carlos said:[35]

There's no-one in the nation of Australia that should be honoured, recognised, appreciated more than Peter Norman for his humanitarian concerns, his character, his strength and his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice.

After the parliamentary apology, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and others disputed the claims made about Norman being ostracised for supporting Carlos and Smith. The AOC did not believe that Norman was owed an apology,[31] citing the following:

  • Norman was cautioned by the AOC but not punished. Chef de Mission Judy Patching cautioned him on the evening of the medal ceremony and then gave Norman as many tickets as he wanted to go and watch a field hockey match.[36]
  • Norman was not selected for the 1972 Munich Olympics, as he did not meet the selection standard which entailed an athlete equalling or bettering the Olympic qualifying standard (20.9)[37] and performing creditably at the Australian Athletics Championships.[19] Norman ran several qualifying times from 1969–1971,[10] but he finished third in the 1972 Australian Athletics Championships behind Greg Lewis and Gary Eddy in a time of 21.6.[10]
  • In the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the AOC stated "Norman was involved in numerous Olympic events in his home city of Melbourne. He announced several teams for the AOC in Melbourne and was on the stage in his Mexico 1968 blazer congratulating athletes. He was acknowledged as an Olympian and the AOC valued his contribution."[36] Due to cost considerations, the AOC did not have the resources to bring all Australian Olympians to Sydney, and Norman was offered the same chance to buy tickets as other Australian Olympians.[31] However, the United States invited him to participate and take part in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when they heard that his own country had failed to do so.[38]

In 2018, the AOC awarded Norman posthumously the Order of Merit for his involvement of the 1968 protest, with AOC President John Coates stating: "I'm absolutely certain from all the history I've read that we didn't do the wrong thing by him. But I absolutely think we've been negligent in not recognising the role he played back then."[39]

Competitive record[edit]

International competitions[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1962 Commonwealth Games Perth, Western Australia 6th S/F 1 ; 12/43 220 yards 21.8(22.03)(−2.8)
1966 Commonwealth Games Kingston, Jamaica 6th Q/F ; 29/54 100 yards 10.2(10.27)(−5.0)
6th S/F 1 ; 10/56 220 yards 21.2(0.0)
3rd 4×110 yards 40.0
5th 4×440 yards 3:12.2
1968 Olympic Games Mexico City, Mexico 2nd 200 m 20.0 (20.06)(+0.9)
1969 Pacific Conference Games Tokyo, Japan 4th 100 m 10.8(−0.1)
1st 200 m 21.0(−0.1)
1st 4 × 100 m 40.8
1970 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, Scotland 5th 200 m 20.86(+1.7)
DNF Heat1 ; 14th 4 × 100 m Dropped baton


National championships[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1965/66 Australian Championships Perth, Western Australia 1st 200 m 20.9 (−1.2)
1966/67 Australian Championships Adelaide, South Australia 1st 200 m 21.3
1967/68 Australian Championships Sydney, New South Wales 1st 200 m 20.5 (0.0)
1968/69 Australian Championships Melbourne, Victoria 2nd 100 m 10.6 (−0.5)
1st 200 m 21.3 (−3.1)
1969/70 Australian Championships Adelaide, South Australia 1st 200 m 21.0 (−2.1)
1971/72 Australian Championships Perth, Western Australia 3rd 200 m 21.6



Later in life, Norman received a number of honours from Australian sport bodies, including:



  1. ^ Mural at 39, Pine Street, Newtown, New South Wales, Australia.[22]


  1. ^ a b c Peter Norman Archived 24 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b Carlson 2006
  3. ^ Associated Press 2006
  4. ^ a b Frost 2008
  5. ^ a b c Hurst, Mike (8 October 2006). "Peter Norman's Olympic statement". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Hawker 2008
  7. ^ Irwin 2012
  8. ^ Athletics at the 1968 Ciudad de México Summer Games: Men's 200 metres Archived 16 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ New Scientist 1981, p. 285
  10. ^ a b c d e Messenger, Robert (24 August 2012). "Leigh sprints into wrong lane over Norman". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  11. ^ a b Montague, James (24 April 2012). "The third man: The forgotten Black Power hero". CNN. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  12. ^ Johnstone & Norman 2008
  13. ^ a b Hurst 2006
  14. ^ Flanagan 2006
  15. ^ Georgakis, Steve. "'I will stand with you': finally, an apology to Peter Norman". Archived from the original on 3 April 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  16. ^ a b Vincent, Donovan (7 August 2016). "The forgotten story behind the 'black power' photo from 1968 Olympics". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Divided by their colour, united by the cause". 1 August 2016. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  18. ^ "IOC Releases 1972 Olympic Standards". Track and Field News: 24. May 1971.
  19. ^ a b "A sprint hope who ran foul of Olympic starters gun". National Times. No. 3–8 April 1972 p.28.
  20. ^ a b "Peter may have lost team place" (PDF). The Age. 27 March 1972. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  21. ^ "National Championships – 24–25 March 1972, Perry Lakes Stadium, Perth". Australasian Amateur Athletics: 2–3. April 1972.
  22. ^ "Leamington Lane, Newtown, NSW". Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  23. ^ a b Tovey 2010
  24. ^ City of Sydney 2010, p. 27
  25. ^ Byrnes, Paul (17 July 2008). "Salute". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  26. ^ McDonald, Scott (23 February 2017). "Olympians' Contributions Featured Prominently in National Museum of African American History And Culture". United States Olympic Committee. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Peter Norman Statue to be built". Athletics Australia website. Archived from the original on 9 October 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  28. ^ Ramsak, Bob (9 October 2019). "Statue honouring Australian Olympian Peter Norman unveiled in Melbourne". World Athletics. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  29. ^ The Daily Telegraph 2012
  30. ^ Australian Associated Press 2012
  31. ^ a b c Whiteman 2012
  32. ^ Parliament of Australia 2012, p. 1865
  33. ^ "Black Power apology 48 years in making". News Corp Ltd. 17 August 2012. Archived from the original on 27 February 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  34. ^ "The brilliant story of the 'other guy' in this iconic Olympics photo". indy100. 19 October 2017. Archived from the original on 29 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  35. ^ Carlos & Eastley 2012
  36. ^ a b "Peter Norman not shunned by AOC". Australian Olympic Committee News, 6 November 2015. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  37. ^ "IOC Releases 1972 Olympic Standards". Track and Field News: 24. May 1971.
  38. ^ Schembri 2008
  39. ^ a b "Peter Norman given posthumous Order of Merit by AOC". SBS News. 28 April 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  40. ^ a b "Peter Norman". Australian Athletics Historical Results. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Aussie sprinter who stood on podium during 1968 black-power salute to be recognised". Stuff (Fairfax). 28 April 2018. Archived from the original on 28 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  42. ^ "Congratulations to SAHOF Member & Olympic silver medalist, Peter Norman, who has been awarded the 2022 The Dawn Award for the role he played alongside Americans Tommie Smith & John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics". Twitter. 8 December 2022. Retrieved 11 December 2022.


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