Tom Cowie TheAge
The hardest part to get right, according to the sculptor, was the simplicity.
In one of the most famous photographs in world sport, Peter Norman is standing still. He has just run second in the 200 metres at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Behind him are Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos. They bow their heads and raise their leather-gloved fists in a Black Power salute to protest racism and advocate for civil rights. Norman is unmoving but he supports their stance by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge alongside his silver medal. It is a decision that would change his life.
When he returned home, Norman was not treated well. “Shabby,” is how his coach Neville Sillitoe described it yesterday. Despite running several qualification times, Norman missed the team for the 1972 Munich Olympics. His time of 20.06 in the 200 metres final is still the Australian record. “They should have selected him for Munich and it was just that little badge that did the job,” his coach said. It has taken half a century but history now celebrates Norman for his bravery alongside Smith and Carlos.
Yesterday, he was finally recognised in his hometown of Melbourne with a statue in Albert Park outside Lakeside Stadium. A large group of family attended the unveiling, including his mother Thelma Norman, who carries a bag bearing the famous photograph of her son everywhere she goes. “He didn’t get the recognition that he deserved when he came home, he even had his life threatened,” she said.
It took sculptor Louis Laumen about six months to produce the bronze likeness of Norman standing on the podium in his green and gold tracksuit. “The simplicity of the image is the great challenge in it,” he said. To help, he studied other photographs and video footage to capture the subtleties and nuances of the moment that could be incorporated into the work. “If you observe the old video of him standing there, there are many flickers of emotion that run through his face,” he said. “It changes over the course of several seconds where you can get a sense of ‘this is going to be a big thing’.”