Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Vince Matthews was one of the best American long sprinter to appear in the mid-1960s, and developed a fierce rivalry with future Olympic champion Lee Evans. The pair first met in their teens, and then duelled several times in 1967, with Evans coming out on top in the AAU Championships and Pan American Games.
At the warm-up meet two weeks prior to the Olympic Trials in 1968, Matthews set the new world record 44.4 in 400 m, but his time was not recognised due to his use of Puma's illegal "brush spikes". At the Trials themselves, he was then beaten out of the top three by Evans, Larry James and Ron Freeman.
After Mexico, Matthews gave up track and field for a time as he struggled with the demands of work and marriage, but somehow worked his way back to full fitness and into contention for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. At the Olympic Trials, Vince finished third behind John Smith and Wayne Collett, beating old rival Lee Evans into fourth. In Olympic final, after 80 metres, when Smith pulled a leg, the race turned into a battle between Matthews and Collett, Matthews winning in 44.66, with Collett coming second in 44.80.
Unfortunately, the triumph was tarnished by the inane behaviour of Matthews and Collett during the medal ceremony, talking to each other and fidgeting while the US national anthem played, leading many to believe it was a Black Power protest like that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. The pair denied any deliberate wrongdoing, but were banned from future Olympic competition by the IOC. This debacle and John Smith's injury meant that the USA no longer had enough men to fill a 4x400 m relay team and were forced to withdraw from the contest.
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