Norman C. Cohn
1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956
Armitage, a sabre fencer, competed for the United States in six Olympiads between 1928 and 1956 (there were no Games during World War II) . He first competed at the 1928 Amsterdam Games (as Norman Cohn) in the individual and team events. In the team competition, the U.S. was eliminated in the first round after losing to Hungary (2-14) and Poland (7-9). Armitage did a little better in the individual sabre, reaching the semifinals, but was then eliminated after finishing seventh in his pool (he won two of seven bouts).
Armitage returned to the Olympics in 1932 at the Los Angeles Games and competed in the team and individual sabre events. While the U.S. team finished fourth after reaching the finals (they lost to Hungary and Poland), Armitage placed ninth in the individual competition; it was his best showing in an individual event during his long Olympic career. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Armitage did not advance past the semifinals in the individual sabre, and placed fifth in team sabre.
At the 1948 London Games, Armitage won his only Olympic medal as he helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal in the team sabre event; they defeated Belgium in the final round to finish third. At the Games, Armitage was awarded the 'Friendship Trophy' as the outstanding American fencer, and was part of a three-man color guard that carried the U.S. flag at the opening ceremonies.
Four years later at the 1952 Helsinki Games, Armitage was the lone flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies; quite an honor for a fencer in America. Although he did not compete in the individual competition, Norman helped lead the U.S. team in the team sabre event. They defeated Switzerland (9-2) in the first round, Germany (11-5) in the second round, and Poland (10-6) in the semifinals. In the final round-robin, Armitage and the U.S. lost to Hungary (13-3), Italy (12-4), and France (8-6), and finished in fourth place.
Armitage's made his final journey to the Olympics at the 1956 Melbourne Games, as a member of the U.S. sabre team, and was once again the lone flag-bearer. The U.S. automatically advanced to the semifinals, where they were eliminated after losing to Poland (10-6) and Hungary (9-1).
Taking up fencing as a student at Columbia University, Armitage won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association sabre championship in 1928, less than three years after learning the sport. A chemical engineer by profession, he fenced in the national championships 25 times, finished among the top three 22 times, and won 10 championships in the individual sabre (1930, 1934-36, 1939-43, and 1945). On 1936, Armitage suffered third-degree burns on his right arm and was told by doctors he would never fence again. Instead, he competed in three more Olympiads and won six more American titles.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Jan. 1, 1907 - d. March 14, 1972
Albany, New York
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
New York Times, July 21-August 2, 1952
New York Times, November 23-December 8, 1956