WINTERSVILLE - Lester Carney cannot believe how big the Olympic Games have grown.
The 1952 Wintersville High graduate won the silver medal in the 200 in the 1960 summer edition in Rome.
The XVII Olympiad had 1,106 athletes from 73 nations. The 2008 Summer Games from Beijing had 2,057 athletes from 200 nations.
WINTERSVILLE GRADUATE HONORED — Lester Carney, a 1952 Wintersville High graduate, was honored for his accomplishments prior to Friday’s Indian Creek football home opener against Weir High. Carney won a silver medal in the 200 in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. - Mike Mathison
"I really can't believe how big it has become," he said. "It's just gone worldwide. Television has played a big part in that."
Carney was honored prior to Friday's Indian Creek football home opener against Weir High.
"It's just fantastic to be back here," said Carney, who makes his home in Akron. "I love seeing how this place has grown. This is a really nice stadium for the kids to play in.
"I remember playing here and there were these little stands, not like the stands now where the people sit. And we never saw such a thing as people buying season tickets."
Carney played for Wintersville from 1949-51 and was a part of one loss. He also played basketball, baseball and ran track. He was a running back for the Ohio team that won the 1952 Ohio-West Virginia All-Star Football Game.
"My last game on this field we beat Jefferson Union and I have five touchdowns - one from 80 (yards) and one from 90."
Carney was a member of the U.S. Army Special 3 from 1954-57 and graduated from Ohio University with a degree in science-commerce in 1959.
He was a member of the 1953 Mid-American championship football team at Ohio University in 1953 and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 15th round 1958.
"I had a decision to make," he said. "If I played football I couldn't run track because I was a professional. So, I chose not to play for Baltimore to concentrate on track.
"It wasn't a hard decision for me. I think it was harder on other people like my father and those who wanted to see me play football."
Carney made the decision pay off.
He won the silver medal in the 200 meters at the 1959 Pan-American Games.
Seventy-four athletes from 54 nations entered the 200 in Rome in 1960. Sixty-two athletes from 47 nations eventually competed as Italy's Livio Berruti became the first 200 Olympic champion not from the United States or Canada.
His 20.5 time tied the European World Record and nipped Carney by one-tenth of a second.
"I just missed beating him," said Carney, who has been inducted into the State of Ohio, Ohio University, Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Summit County Hall of Fames. "I remember the start of the race and the end of the race, but I don't remember the race. I have a DVD of it now and I still don't remember the race.
"I just remember the end result and that's all that matters, I guess."
It was a grueling road to the six-man final.
There were 12 heats in the first round. The top two runners in each heat advanced, as well as the next four fastest runners. He qualified first in his heat at 21.1.
There were four second-round heats and the first three in each heat qualified for the semifinals. Carney was clocked in 20.9 to win his heat.
The top three in each of the two semifinal heats advanced to the final. Carney ran 21.1 to finish third in his heat. His time would have placed sixth in the other heat.
"My coach used to tell us that the more you run the stronger you get and we ran a lot," Carney said.
One thing Carney does remember vividly is standing on the podium watching the American flag being raised.
"Standing there watching the flag go up was just amazing," he said. "When I talked to the team this afternoon, even thinking about it now, I still get chills thinking about standing there, representing the United States in front of the world, watching the flag go up knowing you are one of the three best in the world.
"It's an awesome feeling. You can't describe it. It overwhelms you.
"It brought tears to my eyes."