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Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...

Article

Richard Sobel

first African American Ivy League head coach, 1984 U.S. Olympic men's track-and-field team head coach, and president of USA Track & Field from 1992 to 1996, was born Lawrence Thomas Ellis in Englewood, New Jersey. With two older sisters, Virginia Robinson and Theresa Brisbane, Ellis grew up in the Bronx in New York City, on a street known for its gangs. His parents, Henry Ellis, a tailor, and Anna Wright Hart, a Macy's saleswoman and a child's nurse, separated during his youth and Ellis worked part-time jobs in order to help make ends meet. Ellis's mother and the late Rev. Edler Hawkins, a Presbyterian minister, were positive influences in his younger years. “Basically, I was a good kid,” he explained. “I joined the Boy Scouts. I played ball in the street, touch football (Alfano, New York Times, Apr. 1984 section 5 1 For ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born James Ray Hines in Dumas, Arkansas, the ninth of twelve children of Charlie Hines and Minnie West Hines. In 1952 the Hines family moved to Oakland, California, where his father worked in construction and his mother in a cannery. At Oakland’s Lowell Junior High School, Hines played center field on the baseball team; his speed at that position impressed Jim Coleman, the McClymonds High School track and field coach, who asked him to join the track team. Once at McClymonds, Hines began specializing in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Undefeated throughout his high school career at both distances, he clocked 9.7 seconds in the 100 yards as a sophomore, and improved to 9.4 as a senior, to earn a share of the national high school record. Graduating high school in 1964, Hines ranked as the nation’s top high school sprinter.

Hines earned an athletic scholarship to run ...

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Jamal Ratchford

track and field athlete, was born Edith McGuire in Rockdale, Georgia, one of four children of Alberta, a domestic worker, and Clifford McGuire, a railroad worker. As a child, McGuire first participated in track and field at her elementary school during its May Day celebration. She next attended Samuel Howard Archer High School and was coached by Georgia Sports Hall-of-Fame member Marian Morgan and Olympian Mildred McDaniel Gold. As a high school student-athlete McGuire excelled in the classroom and was selected to the honor roll. She also participated in cheerleading, basketball, and track and field. At the age of 15, McGuire defeated top-ranked local sprinter Fronnie Tucker, and Morgan recommended she attend Coach Ed Temple's summer camp at Texas Southern University. In the summer of 1960 between her junior and senior years of high school McGuire attended Coach Temple s track and field ...

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Martha Saavedra

Mozambican athlete and philanthropist, was born on 27 October 1972 in Maputo, Mozambique. One of the most accomplished athletes ever, Mutola maintained a dominating presence for two decades in her event, the 800-meter foot race, a race of speed and endurance. Her achievements include Mozambique’s first Olympic gold medal, three world championships, and seven world indoor championships. Number seventeen on the all-time list for the 800—only seven women have run faster—it was her consistency in winning that cemented her reputation. Fittingly, she went undefeated in 2003 in six track meets to become the first athlete to win the $1 million International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Golden League Jackpot. She retired in 2008 after competing in her sixth Olympics and one final Golden League meet in Zurich. Like many other elite athletes, she has used her fame and earnings for social projects, particularly through her foundation in Mozambique.

Had professional ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

first black soccer professional and world-record sprinter, was born in the James Town district of Accra (in present-day Ghana) on 28 October 1865. His father, the Reverend Henry Wharton, was a Methodist missionary born in Grenada of Scottish and African ancestry. His mother, Annie Florence Grant, was the daughter of a Fante royal and a Scottish trader. Arthur’s uncle, Francis Chapman Grant, was a leading business and political leader, while a cousin, George “Paa” Grant, became a prominent business leader and helped found the United Gold Coast Convention, along with Kwame Nkrumah and Edward Akuffo-Addo. Despite his relatively privileged upbringing among the Gold Coast’s mixed-race elite, Wharton’s early life was not without tragedy. Five of his eight siblings died in childhood, and his father died in 1873 shortly before Arthur s eighth birthday That same year witnessed the onset of the third Anglo Asante war which caused widespread ...