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¶In men's swimming, Australia's barrel-chested John Konrads, 18, will be the man to beat in the 400 and 1,500 meters. The greatest swimmer in history, Konrads drives himself six miles a day in training, gulps as many as 18 vitamin pills before a race, treats distance events as sprints and holds seven world records. But Konrads may have to swim faster than ever before to beat Teammate Murray Rose, 21, winner of both the 400 and 1,500 meters at Melbourne's 1956 Olympics, and Japan's stocky Tsuyoshi Yamanalca, 21, who has smoothed out his rough arm stroke. In the 200-meter butterfly, Indiana's bull-shouldered Mike Troy, 19, will be the surest gold-medal swimming prospect for the U.S. The world record holder (2:13.2). Troy fattens up on milkshakes and slims down with as many as three workouts a day.
¶In women's swimming. California's 16-year-old Chris von Saltza will be the favorite in the 400 meters, the top race for the girls. Holder of the world record (4:44.5 ), Chris is the long and leggy (5 ft. 10 in., 140 lbs.) blonde leader of a strong U.S. team. Chris planes high and flat in the water like a surfboard, has a sea lion's endurance—and a teen-ager's superstition about a good-luck plastic frog, which she solemnly stations by her starting block before a race. Her challengers: Australia's Dawn Fraser, 22, an octogenarian by swimming standards, and the slumping, doubt-ridden Ilsa Konrads, the 16-year-old kid sister of John. World Record Holder Fraser will be the favorite in the 100 meters (her main threat: Chris von Saltza), and a dark horse in the 100-meter butterfly, thereby stands an outside chance of winning three gold medals on her own, plus a fourth for the 400-meter freestyle relay.
A Champion Apart. With so extraordinary an assemblage of great athletes concentrated in Rome, why do so many Olympic performers and coaches look upon Rafer Johnson as a champion apart? The answer lies deeper than a lifetime of phenomenal athletic performance. For the spirit of the Olympic games is more than the will to win: it is the quality of competing with honor, courage and character. Says Calvin Johnson (no kin), a longtime friend of Johnson's and a doctor now in training to be a medical missionary: "I've never met anyone like him, in medicine, the clergy, wherever. He has a profound respect for other people, and a profound humbleness."
Rafer Johnson was born to Elma and Lewis Johnson in a town named Hillsboro, south of Dallas. He was just 18 months old when his family moved to an all-Negro district of Dallas. There Rafer spent his early years in a bitter little world of segregation, discrimination and poverty. "I don't care if I never see Texas again." Johnson says, with a rare flash of anger. "There's nothing about it I like. If my family had stayed in Texas. I not only wouldn't be representing the U.S. in the Olympic Games—I wouldn't even have gone to college."