Unsung Hero: Australian Olympian Peter Norman

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The photograph above is from the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Olympics for the men’s 200 meters. The man pictured in the middle is Tommie Smith and the man behind him is John Carlos. They are both doing the Black Power salute in the air. This was in protest of segregation and racism that was going on at the time. The two African-Americans were sent home and banned for life from the Olympics. The man in the front however, is Peter Norman. Throughout history, Smith and Carlos are usually the ones remembered and praised but, most people don’t know that Norman played a major role in that picture even if his fist isn’t in the air.

Norman wore a badge on his shirt that read the name of an organization: “Olympic Project for Human Rights”. This organization was created to fight racism in sports. Norman wore the the badge is solidarity to Smith and Carlos. In fact, Norman knew ahead of time that that the two were going to protest. They had planned to wear the gloves, but one had left his pair elsewhere. Norman suggested that they share the remaining pair of gloves. Because Peter Norman stood in solidarity with the two others, he was shunned when he returned back home after the Olympics. He was hated at home.

Norman was cut from the Munich team and retired. He became a nobody and was forgotten in his country. However, Tommie Smith and John Carlos never forgot Peter Norman. The three remained close and maintained a friendship.

As a matter of fact, Norman died in October of 2006 and both Smith and Carlos not only attended the funeral, but they carried his coffin. Norman made a lasting impact on their lives and his bravery and perseverance did not go unnoticed. Peter norman should not only be recognized but should be praised and remembered for fighting inequality.


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