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Article

Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian athlete, was born on 7 August 1932 in Jato, a village located some eighty miles from Addis Ababa, outside the town of Mendida in Shewa Province. His father died before he was born, and young Abebe was adopted by Bikila Demisse, a shepherd. Having completed his studies at age twelve at the local traditional school, he followed in his adopted father’s footsteps. At the age of twenty, he decided to venture out of peasantry and made his way on foot to the capital, to join the Imperial Bodyguard. In 1954 he married Yewibdar Welde-Giyorgis, with whom he fathered four children. He distinguished himself as a talented player of gena, a traditional Ethiopian hockey game, but remained an anonymous soldier until the age of twenty-four. At that time, while guarding the departure of the Ethiopian delegation to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne he decided to begin competing ...

Article

Jesús Cosamalón

was born in the province of Chincha, Peru, on 26 June 1946. Even as an adolescent, he stood out in the sprint competitions held by his high school in his home province, La Gran Unidad Escolar “José Pardo,” especially in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. When he was 17 years old he began to train with Luis Derteano and excelled in regional track events. In 1969, in the city of Quito, Ecuador, he set the Peruvian national record for the 100-meter dash at 10.2 seconds, and he achieved the same time at the Bolivarian Games of 1970 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. However, both results were measured manually, and were thus not official. Acevedo’s official 100-meter record is 10.43 seconds, which was recorded electronically in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1977. During the Sixth Pan American Games, held in Cali, Colombia, in 1971 Acevedo won the bronze medal in ...

Article

Robert Fay

Abebe Bikila was born in Mout, Ethiopia. Before competing as a runner he was a member of the imperial bodyguard of Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor. The marathon at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy was only Bikila’s third race at this distance, but he set a new world best time of 2 hours 15 minutes 16.2 seconds. The designation world best is used instead of record because marathon courses differ greatly and comparison of finish times is difficult. Bikila also attracted attention by running barefoot.

At the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Bikila, no longer competing barefoot, became the first runner to win the Olympic marathon twice. He finished with a new world best time of 2 hours 12 minutes 11.2 seconds. His previous mark had been broken several times between the Olympic games. Bikila competed in the marathon at the 1968 Olympic Games in ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

track and field athlete, Olympic decathlon champion, professional football player, community organizer, and motivational speaker, was born on 9 December 1933, in Plainfield, New Jersey. Milton Gray Campbell was the second of three children of Thomas and Edith Campbell. His father worked as a taxi cab driver and his mother as a domestic. At Plainfield High School Campbell excelled in football, track and field, and swimming. In his junior year he competed in the 100 meters and the 110-meter high hurdles at the 1952 United States Olympic Trials finishing sixth in the second semifinal heat of the 100 meters and fifth in the finals of the 110 meter high hurdles Later that summer Campbell competed in the Amateur Athletic Union AAU Decathlon National Championships which also served as the Olympic Trials for the two day ten event contest In his first attempt at ...

Article

Hilary Mac Austin

Today, when black women dominate track-and-field events, it is difficult to remember that the first Olympic medal won by an African American woman was not awarded until after World War II. The first gold medal was won at the same Olympics; that medal went to Alice Coachman, a legendary high jumper from Tuskegee Institute.

Coachman was born (some sources say 1921 or 1922) near Albany, Georgia. She was one of ten children of Fred and Evelyn Coachman, who worked most days picking cotton. Sometimes her father traveled to Ohio to work as a plasterer, and sometimes her mother cleaned the houses of white families, but usually the entire family worked in the fields at nearby plantations.

Coachman started her jumping career on the red clay roads of Georgia The children would tie rags together and appoint one child to hold each end of the homemade rope Then they ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born on 16 August 1950, in Marabella, San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. Hasely Joachim Crawford was the seventh of Lionel and Phyllis Crawford’s eleven children. At age 10, he joined the Brooklyn Sports Club and began running under the guidance of Zeno Constance, a former national athlete. After the death of his father in 1965, Crawford participated in sports sparingly, entering the San Fernando Technical Institute to study machine shop. After graduating from the Institute in 1968, he was hired by the Swan Hunter Company in Port of Spain, where he worked as a machinist fashioning parts for pipe-fitting machinery, and Texaco, in Pointe-a-Pierre. At Texaco, Crawford joined the company’s sports club, coached by Wilton Jackson, who recognized his sprinting ability. In 1970 he finished fifth in the 100 meters in the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Panama City and won the bronze medal ...

Article

Adam W. Green

was the second child born to John Davis and Mary Alice Davis in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After his older brother died of diphtheria, Davis was raised by his maternal grandmother, Carrie Faton, and aunt Matilda Daniel. Davis found sports as a means of rescue from the cruelty of the Jim Crow South, where he wasn’t allowed to attend the regular movie theater, and where he witnessed Ku Klux Klan marches and cross-burnings while still a child.

Despite living two blocks from Tuscaloosa High School for whites only, segregation forced Davis to cross the tracks to go to the all-black Industrial High School (later Druid). He played basketball and football at Druid, and after graduating in 1950 volunteered for the Air Force where he served four years Stationed in England Davis began training more seriously at the gym gaining weight and athletic skill he became a first string player for the ...

Article

Tracey M. Ober

Born in Casa Verde, a suburb of São Paulo, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva came from a humble background, the only child of a railroad worker and a cook. A friend introduced him to the world of sports when he was almost nineteen years old and by the following year he already held the Brazilian and South American record in the triple jump. At twenty-one, he competed in his first Olympic Games, finishing eighth place in London in 1948. He matched the world record—then 16 meters—in 1950 and set a new record of 16.01m in 1951. A year later at the Helsinki Games, Ferreira da Silva broke his own world record twice on the same day, jumping 16.12m and 16.22m, and winning the gold medal. Ferreira da Silva set a new world record of 16.56m in 1955 and earned a second gold medal at the Melbourne Games in 1956 ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born on 29 September 1927 in São Paulo, Brazil. His father, Antonio, worked for the São Paulo railroad, and his mother, Augusta, washed and mended clothes. In 1947 Ferreira da Silva, who grew up playing soccer, tried out for the São Paulo Futebol Club, one of the leading Brazilian clubs, but did not make the team. His graceful athleticism, however, impressed the German-born coach Dietrich Gerner, who steered him to the triple jump. In his first practice attempt at the salto triplice, Ferreira da Silva reached 11.40 meters (37 feet, 5 inches), but soon improved to 13.50 meters (44 feet, 3.5 inches) at the 1947 Brazilian Beginners Championship. At the 1948 Olympic Games in London, he finished in eighth place, achieving 14.49 meters (47 feet, 6.5 inches) in the triple jump. In 1949 Ferreira da Silva finished third in the triple jump at the South America Championships ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Frankie Fredericks was a talented athlete as a youth, but he never expected to be in the Olympic Games. Until 1990 his country, Namibia, was a colony of South Africa, which had been banned from Olympic competition because of its policy of Apartheid. Yet Fredericks, who has become one of the world’s premiere sprinters, has brought four Olympic medals home to Namibia.

An only child, Fredericks was raised by his mother in Katutura township, just outside the Namibian capital, Windhoek His mother worked several jobs to send Fredericks to private schools where he excelled in both soccer and academics In high school he started running track specializing in sprinting He won both the 100 and 200 meter races in the South African school championships his senior year After graduating Fredericks passed up several college scholarship offers to accept a management training position with the Rossing Uranium ...

Article

LaTrese Evette Adkins

In the history of competitive track and field sports, the leadership and athleticism of Barbara J. Jacket are legendary. Barbara Jacket went to Barcelona, Spain, in 1992 as the second African American head coach of an Olympic U.S. women’s track and field team. The first was her mentor, Nell Jackson, at the 1956 Olympic games.

Jacket was born in Port Arthur, Texas, and raised along with her two siblings by their mother, Eva Getwood. A track and basketball star before entering college at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Jacket was later inducted into the Tuskegee Athletic Hall of Fame. Soon after she left college in 1965 Jacket assumed the job that would be hers for the next three decades She created and coached a women s track and field team at Prairie View A M University a historically black university in Prairie View Texas From that time ...

Article

Joanna Davenport

Nell Cecilia Jackson, one of the pioneers in women’s track and field, was born in Athens, Georgia, to Dr. Burnette and Wilhemina Jackson. The second of three children, she spent most of her early life and college days in Tuskegee, Alabama, where her father was a dentist and her mother worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital. By the time Jackson was fourteen, she was a member of the Tuskegee Institute Track and Field Club, an avenue for talented young women in high school and college to gain entry to national meets. From then on, Nell Jackson’s life revolved around track.

As a competitor, Jackson was an All-American sprinter and a member of the 1948 U S Olympic team Even though she did not win a medal she stated that the Olympics were one of the greatest experience of my life It s something I never would have ...

Article

was born in New York City. Information about his parents’ names and occupations are not widely known. He spent his early childhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he attended elementary school. In 1945, Jenkins’ mother fell ill, and they moved to Delaware where she could be closer to her parents. After his mother passed away in 1949 he moved back to Cambridge to be raised by his aunt Agnes Wheaton or Wheatley who had three children of her own Jenkins cousin Lloyd and several of his friends from elementary school challenged him to try out for the Rindge Technical High School track team but he thought running track looked silly and besides he wanted to play basketball His childhood friend George Hubbard challenged him to a race around the indoor track shared by Rindge and the Cambridge Latin School Jenkins lost to Hubbard and the defeat made him determined ...

Article

Adam W. Green

His parents’ names are not recorded, but he moved along with his family to Pontiac, Michigan when he was three years old. He began running in elementary school, and graduated to hurdling in eighth grade, a sport that would make his career. Though he didn’t make his Pontiac Central High School track team until his junior year in 1955, Jones won the long jump and 120-yard hurdles events at the State Class A meet, and followed that performance up with three victories at the meet the following year. As a senior Jones was named the state’s most outstanding male track athlete, and ranked as one of the top high school hurdlers in the nation.

Despite his perfect technique natural speed and excellent start from the line Jones wasn t recruited by colleges due to his perceived physical shortcomings he was on the short side at five feet ten inches ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born on 3 December 1950 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, where his father worked in construction and his mother taught Spanish. Alberto Juantorena Danger, the second of three children, entered a state-sponsored school for youngsters with athletic potential in 1965. Standing 6 feet, 2 inches, Juantorena practiced basketball and was selected for the Cuban national junior team for his speed and jumping ability. In the late 1960s and 1970s, he completed his compulsory military service, working in the sugarcane harvest, as did most soldiers. After being timed in the 400 meters in 51.0 seconds without any preparation, Juantorena was referred to Zygmunt Zebierzowski, a Polish track coach, who helped him achieve a time of 48.2 and a position on the 1972 Cuban Olympic Team in the 400 meters. At the 1972 Munich Olympic Games he clocked 45 94 in the qualifying heats and finished fifth in the ...

Article

John Bale

Kenyan athlete, world record holder, and Olympic champion, was born Hezekia Kipchoge Keino on 17 January 1940 in Kipsano, Kenya, in the Nandi district of the southern part of Rift Valley province. His mother died when he was four. His father worked on a tea plantation and was a good runner, winning prizes in plantation- sponsored races. As a youngster in the 1950s, young Keino was inspired by Nyandika Maiyoro, the first Kenyan athlete to run against world-class athletes when he competed in the British championship in London and the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954 Maiyoro exploded the prevailing view that black athletes could not perform well in long distance running and became Keino s role model Initially Keino was self trained but he later became a member of the police force which offered him time to train and compete As he improved he was trained and advised ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Kipchogo Keino was the first of Kenya’s world-class distance runners to make his mark on the world sports scene. He won gold and silver medals at both the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games, set long-standing world records in both the 5000- and 3000-meter races, and inspired a generation of Kenyan track and field athletes. Keino, an ethnic Nandi, was born in Kipsamo, Kenya. He was orphaned at the age of two and raised by his grandmother. His first racing success came in 1962, when he set a national record for the mile. In 1964 while working as a physical fitness instructor for a police academy Keino participated in his first Olympic Games where he finished fifth in the 5000 meter race The following year he broke world records in both of his main events the 3000 and 5000 meter races Sports analysts believe Keino s training ...

Article

Luis Pullido Ritter

known as the “Jamaican Flash,” was born on 28 June 1922 in the urban working-class neighborhood of Caledonia, “Little Jamaica,” in Panama City. His parents, Julia and Samuel LaBeach, were both of Jamaican origin, but only met when they came to Panama during the construction of the canal. After work on the canal had completed, his father, a man with an entrepreneurial spirit, successfully launched a small taxi company in Panama. By the end of the 1920s, however, the family returned to Kingston, Jamaica, where LaBeach’s father continued to run his own transport business. It was while LaBeach was a student at the Kingston Gaynstead Tutorial College that his athletic talent became apparent. He returned to Panama and, in 1946 under the direction of his coach Carlos Belisario received a scholarship to study at the University of Wisconsin Here he medaled at various interuniversity championships in both the long ...

Article

Brian L. Moore

was born on 10 July 1922 at Pleasant Valley, Clarendon, in Jamaica into a well-to-do middle-class family. His father, Dr. Alec G. McKenley, was a prominent physician and socialite.

After elementary school, Herbert Henry McKenley (known as “Herb”) went to Calabar High School, one of the leading boys’ schools on the outskirts of the capital, Kingston. With his natural talent, McKenley’s athletic prowess as a runner straddling all distances, from 100 to 880 yards, blossomed at Calabar, and he established himself as one of Jamaica’s premier athletes. Calabar was one of the nurseries of a vibrant sporting culture that had developed in Jamaica from the late nineteenth century, and track and field athletics featured very prominently, promoted particularly in the boys’ schools by annual competitions.

Although McKenley grew up in relatively comfortable circumstances the hard times generated by the Great Depression escaped no one As a teenager he was fully ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

sprinting champion who later served as a U.S. congressman. Although overshadowed by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics, the track-and-field star Ralph Harold Metcalfe was America's premier sprinter for several years in the early 1930s. He was born in Atlanta on 30 May 1910, the third son of Clarence and Mamie Holmes Metcalfe, but shortly thereafter the family moved to Chicago, where his father found employment in the city's stockyards and his mother was a dressmaker. Metcalfe was the national interscholastic sprint champion in 1929, and at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion in the 100- and 220-yard dashes for three successive years, from 1932 through 1934.

In the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles he won the silver medal in the 100 meter dash and the bronze in the 200 meters He equaled or broke world ...