Legacy of Speed is the story of two runners from the 1968 Olympics-John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Carlos and Smith famously raised the Black Power salute when receiving medals for races that they ran in. There has only been one episode released so far. In episode one, running coach Bud Winter is discussed. His running techniques propelled Carlos and Smith and so many other athletes to the Olympics. The host Malcolm Gladwell provides interesting details about the background of Carlos and Smith and gives a concise timeline of events leading up to the Olympics.
An unexpected but interesting beginning to this podcast is the examination of the running techniques created by Bud Winter. Winter was the Head Coach of Track and Field at San Jose State University from 1940-1970. While there, he taught his athletes to stay relaxed when running. This included keeping their hands open rather closed and unclenching their jaws when running. He developed these relaxation methods in the Navy during World War Two to improve the performance of fighter pilots in combat. Studies of the performance of pilots showed that his methods worked. I found the story of the origins of Winter’s relaxation method and the explanation of its practices to be fascinating!
The results from Winter’s relaxation methods for runners are impressive. In total, Winter coached 37 world record holders, 102 NCAA All-American athletes, 49 NCAA records holders, and 27 Olympians. This is why San Jose State University became know as “Speed City.” What is also impressive about Winter is his willingness to recruit African American athletes when racism was prevalent and track coaches almost exclusively recruited white runners. In the podcast episode, Ray Norton describes being surprised when recruited by Winter. I was fascinated when I heard Winter’s long list of accomplishments and I was surprised that I had not heard of him before. When talking about the greatest coaches of all time, Winter should be mentioned more often.
When episode one ends, you will be eager to listen to the next episode, which should be released next week. I am excited to learn more about John Carlos and Tommie Smith who were quoted a few times in the first episode but I am fascinated by what I learned so far. Gladwell has done an excellent job of blending sports with racial issues in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Though this podcast is a true story, it sounds like a novel with the fascinating facts and conversations that are in the first episode.
Legacy of Speed can be listened to on the Pushkin website and podcast apps such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.
To learn more about John Carlos and Tommie Smith, take a look at our curated book list. These books can be placed on and hold picked up at any branch of YPL.