Percy Williams (sprinter)

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Percy Alfred Williams
Percy Williams 1928.jpg
Percy Williams at the 1928 Olympics
Personal information
Born May 19, 1908
Vancouver, Canada
Died November 29, 1982(1982-11-29) (aged 74)
Vancouver, Canada
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight 56 kg (123 lb)
Sport
Sport Sprint running
Club Vancouver Athletic Club

Percy Alfred Williams,[1] OC (May 19, 1908 – November 29, 1982) was a Canadian athlete, winner of the 100 and 200 metres races at the 1928 Summer Olympics and a former world record holder for the 100 metres sprint.

Early life

Williams was the only child of Frederick Williams, who was originally from England, and Charlotte Rhodes, who hailed from St. John's, Newfoundland.[2][3] At the age of 15 Williams suffered from rheumatic fever and was advised to avoid strenuous physical activities. However, as his high school required participation in athletic competitions, he started training in sprint in 1924 and by 1927 became a local champion.

Olympic competition

At the 1928 Olympic trials he won the 100 and 200 metres races, equaling the Olympic 100 metres record of 10.6 seconds.[4][5]

To earn his travel ticket for the trials Wiliams and his volunteer coach Bob Granger worked as waiters and dishwashers in a dining car, and Vancouver track fans raised the money to pay Granger's transatlantic ship passage to the 1928 Olympics.[5] At the Olympics Williams won both the 100 and 200 metres races. He was also part of the Canadian team which was disqualified in the final of the 4×100 metre relay contest.[4]

Williams showed that his success was not an accident, setting a World Record at a meet in Toronto in 1930. He then won the 100 yard dash at the inaugural British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton, Ontario, but tore the tendons in his upper left leg at the 70 yard mark and never made a full comeback.[6] At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 metre event. With the Canadian team he finished fourth in the 4×100 metre relay competition. Subsequently, Williams stopped running and became an insurance agent.[5]

Later life and death

He donated two gold medals from the 1928 Olympics to the BC Sports Hall of Fame, saying that he wanted them to be seen and remembered. Within weeks they were stolen. It was said at the time that Williams simply shrugged off the loss and no replacements were ever issued.

In later years, Williams grew bitter about his sporting experiences, culminating in being the only living Canadian Olympic medalist who refused the federal government’s invitation to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.[6]

In 1979, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[7]

Williams stayed with his mother until she died in 1977.[5] After that, he lived alone and suffered from arthritic pain. A keen collector of guns, Williams shot himself in the head with a gun he had been awarded in 1928 as a prize for his Olympic feat. His suicide was a surprise to everyone and no note was left.[1] He was interred at Masonic Cemetery of British Columbia, Burnaby, Canada.

Awards and Recognition

In 1950, a Canadian press poll proclaimed Williams Canada's greatest track athlete of the first half of the century. They updated that in 1972 to declare him Canada's all-time greatest Olympic athlete.

Percy Williams Junior Public School located in Scarborough, Toronto was named after Williams. [8]

References

  1. ^ a b Samuel Hawley, I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World's Fastest Human (Ronsdale Press, 2011), p. 272.
  2. ^ Samuel Hawley. "Percy Williams: Childhood". samuelhawley.com. Retrieved 10 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Volume 22: St Johns WESLEYAN METHODIST: George Street Church Baptisms 1882-1891". ngb.chebucto.org/. Retrieved 11 September 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Percy Williams. Sports-Reference.com
  5. ^ a b c d Geoff D'Auria (4 August 2012). "Vancouver's Forgotten Track Star". TheTyee.ca. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Jamie Bradburn (21 July 2015). "The British Empire Games of 1930". Torontoist.com. Retrieved 30 August 2017. 
  7. ^ Percy A. William, Order of Canada
  8. ^ http://schoolweb.tdsb.on.ca/percywilliams/About-Us

External links and further reading

  • Neil Duncanson, The Fastest Men on Earth: The Story of the Men's 100 Metre Champions, HarperCollinsWillow, 1988
  • Percy Williams at Find a Grave
  • Percy Williams: an on-line collection of photos and memorabilia
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