A Heroic Roman. How Dorando failed to seize the Laurel

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

A Heroic Roman. How Dorando failed to seize the Laurel is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Daily Mail on 25 july 1908.

Report of Dorando Pietri finish in the Olympic Marathon of 1908.


Conan Doyle's Appreciation (The New-York Times)

His Description of Dorando's Wonderful Run — Praises Americans.

LONDON. July 24. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in describing the scene in the Stadium, said:

"I think in that great assembly not any man would have wished to see victory torn at the last instant from the plucky little Italian. Thank God he is on his feet again, the little red legs going incoherently, but drumming, hard driven by the supreme will within. There is a groan as he falls again, a cheer as he restaggers to his feet. It is horrible, yet fascinating, this struggle between a set purpose and an utterly exhausted frame...

... Surely a is done now; he cannot rise again. From under the archway has darted a second runner, Hayes, the Stars and Stripes on his breast, going gallantly and well within his strength. There are only twenty yards — if the Italian can do it. He staggers up, no trace of intelligence upon his set face, and again the red legs break into their strange automatic amble. Will he fall again? No, he says, and balances; then he is through the tape into a score of friendly arms. He has gone to the extreme of human endurance. No Roman of prime ever bore himself better: the great breed is not yet extinct."

Then after a tribute to the Americans on their performances and lament over the Britishers' failure, Sir Conan Doyle, referring to the judges' award of the victory to Hayes, said:

"I confess I cannot see how the judges could come to any other decision, and yet the tragedy remains. It was as matters stood, a fair and square win for the American, since without help Dorando must have lain senseless on the track."

In his general reference to the American athletes Sir Conan Doyle said:

"These Americans specialize, and yet they retain the remarkable appearance of all-around excellence. There is no hypertrophy of special muscle, all is symmetry and balance, beauty and grace. The theorist might suppose the evolution of a type meagre in body and powerful in quarters. There is no sign of it."

"... There is no sign of it to date. In pole jumping there seems to be a clean mastery at the game in the American style, which I can see nowhere else."