Peter Norman

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For the Swedish politician, see Peter Norman (politician).
Peter Norman
Peter Norman.jpg
Personal information
Full name Peter George Norman
Born 15 June 1942
Coburg, Victoria, Australia
Died 3 October 2006(2006-10-03) (aged 64)
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Weight 73 kg (161 lb)
Country  Australia
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Sprint
Club East 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 which remains the Australian 200 metres record.[2] He was a five-time Australian 200 m champion.[3] 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.[4]


Early years[edit]

Peter Norman grew up in a devout Salvation Army family[5] living in Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria, and was educated at The Southport School. 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]

Norman was conflicted with some aspects of Salvation Army beliefs including competing on the Sabbath.[7]

Athletics career[edit]

Before the 1968 Olympics Norman was a trainer for West Brunswick Australian rules football club as a way of keeping fit over winter during the athletic circuit's off season. After 1968 he played 67 games for West Brunswick between 1972 and 1977 before coaching an under 19 team in 1978.

1968 Summer Olympics[edit]

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

The 200 metres 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.[8] He won his quarter final and was second in the semi.

In the semi-finals, Peter Norman finished the race in second place at 20.06 seconds , his best performance ever. This is an Australian record that still stands today.

On the morning of 16 October, U.S. athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 metre final with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds.[9][10] Norman finished second in a time of 20.06 s, and U.S. athlete John Carlos was in third place in 20.10 s. Norman's time was his all-time personal best[1] and an Australian record that still stands.

After the race, 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.

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 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."[11] On the way out 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.[12] It was Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair in the Olympic Village.[4] This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left.

Australia's Olympic authorities reprimanded him for his gesture and the Australian media ostracised him.[4] 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.[12]

Career achievements[edit]

International competitions[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1962 Commonwealth Games Perth, 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 years[edit]

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.[14] 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.[15]


Norman died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.[12] 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]

2012 Parliamentary apology debate[edit]

Australian organising authorities overlooked Norman as being involved in any way with the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney; the United States invited him to participate and take part when they heard that his own country had failed to do so.[16] 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 – his empty podium spot intended for others viewing the statue to "take a stand" – but was invited to deliver a speech at the ceremony.[6]

In August 2012, the federal parliament debated a motion to provide an apology to Norman.[17][18][19] The Australian Olympic Committee disputed the claims that Norman had been blacklisted or was excluded from the 1972 Olympics team. Regarding the 2000 Olympics, they said that no other former athletes had been invited to take part and that Norman was offered the same chance to buy tickets as others were. The AOC did not believe that Norman was owed an apology.[20]

On 11 October 2012 the Australian Parliament passed the wording of an official apology that read:

In a 2012 interview, Carlos said:[22]


Three Proud People mural in Newtown.

Norman's nephew Matt Norman directed and produced the cinema-released documentary Salute (2008) about the three runners through Paramount Pictures and Transmission Films. Paul Byrnes in his Sydney Morning Herald review of Salute says that the film 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".[23]

An airbrush mural of the trio on podium was painted in 2000 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney.[A 1] Silvio Offria, who allowed an artist known only as "Donald" to paint the mural on his house in Leamington Lane, said Norman came to see the mural, "He came and had his photo taken, he was very happy."[24] The monochrome tribute, captioned "THREE PROUD PEOPLE MEXICO 68," was under threat of demolition in 2010 to make way for a rail tunnel[24] but is now listed as an item of heritage significance.[25]



  1. ^ 39 Pine Street, Newtown, New South Wales, Australia
  1. ^ a b c Peter Norman.
  2. ^ Carlson 2006
  3. ^ Associated Press 2006
  4. ^ a b c Frost 2008
  5. ^ Hurst, Mike (8 Oct 2006). "Peter Norman's Olympic statement". Courier Mail. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Hawker 2008
  7. ^ Bentley, Peter (18 August 2008). "Salute – the Christian Connection" (PDF). Confessing Congregations. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Irwin 2012
  9. ^ Athletics at the 1968 Ciudad de México Summer Games: Men's 200 metres.
  10. ^ New Scientist 1981, p. 285
  11. ^ Flanagan 2006
  12. ^ a b c Hurst 2006
  13. ^ a b "Peter Norman". Athletics Australia Historical Results. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Johnstone & Norman 2008
  15. ^ The Salute
  16. ^ Schembri 2008
  17. ^ The Daily Telegraph 2012
  18. ^ Australian Associated Press 2012
  19. ^ Whiteman 2012
  20. ^ Whiteman, Hilary (21 August 2012). "Apology urged for Australian Olympian in 1968 black power protest". CNN. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  21. ^ Parliament of Australia 2012, p. 1865
  22. ^ Carlos & Eastley 2012
  23. ^ Byrnes, Paul (17 July 2008). "Salute". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  24. ^ a b Tovey 2010
  25. ^ City of Sydney 2010, p. 27

External links[edit]