Published August 21, 2012
CANBERRA, Australia – An American athlete who took part in a controversial black-power salute at the 1968 Olympics says an Australian parliamentary apology to silver medalist Peter Norman might have come too late.
On Monday night, federal lawmakers in Canberra praised the "heroism and humility" of the late Australian sprinter for standing in solidarity with gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos on the podium following the 200-meter race at Mexico City. Norman was later chastised at home for his stand, and reports suggested that he was shunned from future Olympic selection.
Carlos told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio Tuesday that the disrespect, "I think, mortally wounded him."
"I don't think he was as bitter as he was hurt ... and I don't think he ever recovered," Carlos said.
Norman, who wore the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge as the Americans gave the black power salute, died of a heart attack in 2006.
It was thought Norman was punished for his involvement by being banned by Olympic officials for the 1972 Munich Games. However, a spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee said Norman wasn't nominated for the Munich Games "due to lack of form," which Norman had apparently acknowledged at the time.
Norman later quit athletics in protest over his treatment.
Carlos, who with Smith was a pallbearer at Norman's funeral, said there was no one in Australia who should be "honored, recognized, appreciated" more.
He cited his humanitarian concerns, character, strength, and his willingness to be "a sacrificial lamb for justice."
Norman's 91-year-old mother, Thelma, and sister Elaine Ambler were in parliament on Monday to hear lawmakers praise him.
"It surprises me how many people know his name, and those that don't do remember the photo," Elaine Ambler said.
Lawmaker Andrew Leigh told federal parliament on Monday that Norman was punished for standing in solidarity on the podium with Smith and Carlos.
"It was a moment of heroism and humility that advanced international awareness for racial inequality," Leigh said in presenting his motion for an apology.
Another parliamentarian, John Alexander, said Norman was ostracized by the Australian media and athletics officials.
"The simple gesture to wear this badge on the dais as Smith and Carlos raised their fist in protest condemned Norman to never represent Australia again," he said.
Norman set an Australian record that still stands when he finished second in the Mexico City race in 20.06 seconds.