1960—Rome: 100% Improvement, One Plus One (Part 3)
By Colonel Jim Crossman
The arrival of the U.S. team in Rome about the middle of August 1960 assured the shooters of three full weeks of practice before the first match. This long period of practice worked to the advantage of both the shooters and the range personnel, so that by the time of the matches, everyone knew what was going on and how to do it.
The Italians had done a fine job of organizing the shooting, including rebuilding the Umberto I Shooting Range for the Olympic 25- and 50-meter events. While this range was close in, the 300-meter range at Cesano at the Italian Infantry School was some distance from Rome. The clay pigeon match took place at the Lazio club, only one kilometer from Olympic Village.
At the Umberto area, the 40-point 50-meter range was built between two high masonry walls. A high masonry and dirt backstop, plus intermediate baffles, made it an excellent safety range, although surrounded by housing. A spacious masonry shooting house, with the front end of the roof serving as one of the safety baffles made a delightful area for both shooter and spectator.
The most interesting innovation on the 50-meter range was the target transport system. Electrically operated, the targets were moved from the shooters' position to the firing position at the touch of a button. The targets traveled back and forth in about six seconds and many shooters dispensed with the use of the telescope for spotting shots, bringing the target up close for a direct-eyeball examination instead. A placard above each shooter's position displayed the name of his country and his flag. As the unofficial score was determined, Italian soldiers printed the results at each firing point with one-inch rubber stamps.
Downrange, beyond the backstop for the 50-meter range, were built the 25-meter ranges for the pentathlon and for the rapid-fire event. This area was also properly baffled to make it an excellent safety range. Over each firing point was a translucent fiberglass cover. So each shooter could control the light to suit himself, a sliding canvas could partially or completely overlay the translucent cover.
The area between the clubhouse and the 50-meter range was beautifully landscaped and included flag poles for the flags of each nation participating in the Olympic Games. In addition, at the head of the landscaped area were three additional poles on which to fly the flags of the winners during ceremonies.
The trap range was situated on a plateau overlooking the Tiber River valley. The location of the trap houses gave an all-sky background for the birds, but exposed them to the wind. Wind caused much more of a problem on the 300-meter range on the Infantry School grounds.
The new range was built in a draw that was just wide enough for the 40 targets. The slope of the area required that the shooting house be a two-story building, with jury rooms and lockers on the ground floor and the shooters firing from the floor above. On the day of the 300-meter match, the weather started bad and gradually became worse, with strong, gusty winds. Picked up by the winds, the fine powdery dust of the newly graded range made shooting unpleasant. The dust obscured the targets at times, and the range officials had to allow one hour additional shooting time to the usual six-and-a-half hours.
The winning score for the 300 meters showed the effects of the wind as the Austrian H. Hammerer took first with 1129, nine points under the record. The Swiss Spillman and Borisov, USSR, were second and third, both with 1127. There were too many shooters in this match to fire it in one relay, so a half-course (20 shots in each position) was fired the first day to eliminate some shooters and bring the final group down to 40 shooters. Both American shooters survived the cut-off with no trouble, Dan Puckel having a 566 for the half-course and John Foster 562. On the next day, both dropped down from this score, Foster ending in seventh overall with 1121 (560.5 average) and Puckel in 10th with 1114 (557 average).
It was necessary also to hold eliminations in the free pistol event. Again both Americans easily survived the cut. The Soviets took the two top medals, Gustchin with a new record 560 and Umarov with 552. For the first time a Japanese, Y. Yoshikawa, won an Olympic shooting medal, also with a 552. That veteran of many Olympics, Torsten Ullman, showed that he had not lost his grip, shooting 550 for fourth. Lincoln's 543 was good for ninth while Hurst's 538 put him 17th.
The 3-position smallbore rifle match was fired after elimination rounds. Puckel ended in seventh place and Hill in 24th, with Soviets Shamburkin and Niasov taking first and second with 1149 and 1145, while Germany's Zahringer won the bronze with 1139.
The old Olympic record had been 1172, but Shamburkin's score set a new record. Contradictory? No, there was a new target in 1960 and the winner automatically established the record.
UIT shooters had always favored tough, discriminating targets, since this was the way one shooter was separated from another. They did not have the make-a-possible complex of American shooters, whose targets in many cases were so easy that large numbers would make the highest possible score in a match, leaving the ties to be settled by the weak crutch of the X-ring, or some other means. There was no problem about making possibles on the 300-meter rifle target, or the 50-meter pistol target which had remained unchanged for well over a half-century. But people were getting all the shots in the 10-ring in the prone smallbore match. In 1958 a new target was adopted, which had a couple of advantages. In the first place, ring diameters were smaller and the target was tougher, with less chance of people making them all. The rings were changed to be proportionate to the 300-meter target, so that a 9 at 300 meters should be a 9 at 50 meters. And although an X-ring was put in the target, current rules do not use the X for settling ties.
The smallbore rifle prone event was the most popular, with many more entries than could be handled in one relay, so a 40-shot elimination was run and the high 54 shooters were selected for the final day. Scores of the elimination shooting did not count in determining the winner of the match.
Puckel had a 585 for seventh place in this match, which was won by Kohnke, Germany, with a 590, and Venezuelan Forcella Pelliccioni had a 587 for third place. Second place? There was Jim Hill reaching for the silver medal with a score of 589, the best news we had had in a long time!
In the 100-bird shotgun elimination, both U.S. entries survived the cut, Clark with 90, Riegger with 87. On the two days of the match, Riegger consistently had trouble, shooting 85 and 83 for 168 total. Meanwhile, Jim Clark was regularly breaking birds, with a high round of 24 and a low of 22. His 94 on each day gave him a 188 for fourth place, just out of the medals. Dumitrescu of Romania broke 192 for first, with the winner of 1956, Rossini, just one bird behind. Soviet Kalinin was in third with 189.
The rapid-fire match was the real cliff-hanger of the whole shooting match. No elimination had been scheduled for this, as the match had been planned over two days, with each competitor firing a half-course each day. At the end of the first day, Soviet Cherkason was ahead with a 296, but Bill McMillan was right up there with a 295. Bill added a 292 on the second day, for a 587 total and a three-way tie. Linnosvuo of Finland had shot 294 and 293, while the Russian Zabelin had tied a hot 296 to his first day 291. The shoot-off was conducted by firing three five-shot strings in the short four-second time limit. McMillan did not leave much room for the others with his great scores of 48, 50 and 49, winning his gold medal by eight points. (See McMillan pictured at the top of this article.)
While the United States did not exactly swamp the opposition in 1960, two medals to the seven of the Soviets, we did make some improvement. And it is not every year that you can make 100-percent improvement.
Read more: Melbourne 1956 Olympics: Caviar On Our Faces