Lance Larson, a champion Southern California swimmer whose apparent victory in the 100-meter freestyle race at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome was snatched away within minutes by the chief judge, died on Jan. 19 in Orange, Calif. He was 83.
His son Lance Jr. said the death, in a hospice facility, was caused by complications of pneumonia.
The race had been very close, led at first by Manuel Dos Santos of Brazil until John Devitt, an Australian, overtook him.
“At the 75-meter mark, Larson sees a shadow to his left, slightly ahead, and says to himself, ‘When are you going to start moving?’” David Maraniss wrote in his book “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World” (2008). “And he starts moving.”
The two swimmers were no farther apart “than the width of a flattened sardine,” the New York Times sports columnist Arthur Daley wrote.
Larson touched the wall underwater, and Devitt touched above the water.
Larson “flipped joyously backward, kicking off in a long glide to celebrate what he thought was victory,” Sports Illustrated wrote.
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