percy williams olympic gold medal 1928


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Samuel Hawley is a writer of narrative nonfiction and fiction. His books are highly eclectic. He has written about 16th-century East Asian history, 19th-century Korean-American relations, Olympic sprinting and land speed racing and a circus elephant named Topsy who was electrocuted in 1903. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.

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percy williams holland hotel
A photo taken by Percy looking out the window of his room in Amsterdam's Holland Hotel. It was from this window that he and Doral tested Doral's cane gun, firing it into the wall across the alley. This upset the locals for some reason and they called the police. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

amsterdam olympic stadium 1928 aerail view
An aerial view of Amsterdam's just-completed Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 1928 Olympics. (photo from 1929 Millrose Games souvenir booklet, author's collection)

percy amsterdam olympic stadium doral pilling
Percy (hatless, second from right) with fellow Olympic team members at Amsterdam's Olympic stadium, July 1928. That's javelin thrower Doral Pilling to the left of Percy and Stanley Glover to the right. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

frank wykoff coach dean cromwell
California speed ace Frank Wykoff, one of America's top hopes for sprint gold at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, with USC coach Dean Cromwell, the "maker of champions." The Americans at this point were scarcely aware of Percy.

charlie paddock and coach dean cromwell
Charley Paddock, the most famous sprinter of the day and widely billed as the "World's Fastest Human," being coached by Dean Cromwell. In the US Olympic trials Paddock failed to qualify for his preferred event, the 100 metres. He qualified instead in the 200 metres, earning a ticket to Amsterdam for one final try for an Olympic gold medal.

hamilton spectator july 26 1928
The Amsterdam Olympic Stadium track was still not quite complete as the athletes assembled in the city and thus they were barred from training on it. A report that American athletes managed to finagle some training time on the track led to accusations of unfariness by Canadian officials, adding to the glowering resentment they felt towards the Americans. The French got involved too, one of their officials receiving a punch in the nose after trying to force his way past a stadium guard and onto the track. Note the reference to Percy in the last paragraph. (Hamilton Spectator, July 26, 1928, author's collection)

bob granger percy williams amsterdam 1928
Bob Granger massaging Percy's legs prior to competition at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Bob had just gotten his hair cut by a local barber--somewhat shorter than he was used to. (Getty Images)

percy williams starting crouch
Percy in his starting stance, feet in holes, an extreme forward lean. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy williams bob mcallister
Trash-talking Bob McAllister of New York (far right), the "Flying Cop," wins the first 100-metre semi-final. Percy (third from left) gets off to a slow start and places second, good enough to advance to the final. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy williams 100 metre gold medal
The finish of the Olympic 100-metre final, Amsterdam, July 30, 1928, Percy leading. The runners from lane 1 (top) to lane 6 (bottom) are: Wilfred Legg, South Africa; Georg Lammers, Germany (BRONZE); Percy Williams, Canada (GOLD); Jack London, Great Britain (SILVER); Frank Wykoff, USA; Bob McAllister, USA. From this moment on everything changed for Percy. (Bill and Christine McNulty, Peerless Percy)

percy williams amsterdam 200 metre gold
The finish of the Olympic 200-metre final, Amsterdam, August 1, 1928, Percy again first through the string. The runners from lane 1 (top) to lane 6 (bottom) are: Jacob Schuller, Germany; Percy Williams, Canada (GOLD); Walter Rangeley, Great Britain (SILVER); Helmut Koernig, Germany (BRONZE); Jackson Scholz, USA; Johnny Fitzpatrick, Canada. In winning both the 100 and the 200, Percy achieved the Olympic "double." (Bill and Christine McNulty, Peerless Percy)

percy williams 200 metre gold medal 1928
Another view of the finish of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics 200 metres, Percy in the extreme throes of effort at far right. This iconic image would stick in the mind of a young Albertan named George Stanley and years later would serve as inspiration when he designed Canada's maple leaf flag. As Stanley  rememberered: "As a boy I was so impressed with a picture of Percy Williams winning the gold medal in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. As Williams breasted the tape you could see the large maple leaf on his jersey and there was no doubt everyone knew it was Canada." (Weekend Sun, December 24, 1994, courtesy James Worrall)

percy williams headlines
Percy's two gold medals in the sprints made headlines across Canada. Here is the front page of the Toronto Evening Telegram, August 1, 1928. (author's collection)

percy williams
One of the many editorial cartoons that appeared in newspapers across Canada following Percy's double Olympic wins. A common theme running through many of them, as here, was the delight Canadians took in one of their athletes beating America's best. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

Percy Williams wins 100 metre gold medal
And again, this time from a Vancouver newspaper. Note the inscription at bottom right, "Remember the Granger Fund," referring to the drive to raise money to pay for Bob Granger's passage home from Amsterdam. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy williams 200 metre gold medal
A Toronto Evening Telegram cartoon, August 1, 1928, commemorating Percy's second gold medal. (author's collection)

percy williams poem
"Son of the West" by Robert Watson, one of several poems that were published in Percy's honor. (Vancouver Daily Province, August 4, 1928, author's collection)

percy williams craze 1928
Percy's Olympic wins sparked a craze across Canada and particularly in Vancouver, as spoofed in this cartoon from the Vancouver Daily Province, August 3, 1928. (author's collection)

percy williams letter August 4, 1928
The first page of Percy's first letter home to his mother Charlotte after winning his two gold medals, typed on Holland Hotel letterhead, August 4, 1928.(Typing was one of the skills Percy had to master in his business course at Commerce High School.)  One of the things Percy would come to dislike about his new-found fame was the barrage of advice, people urging him to do this or that. He writes: "I have an awful slew of telegrams and cables from everybody. Everybody on the team has decided that I must go to the best University now without fail....All the officials here have decided also that I must go to school." (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

bob granger letter charlotte williams
The first page of a long letter Bob Granger wrote in Amsterdam to Percy's mother Charlotte. Bob, still in the glow of Percy's double gold-medal victories, begins the letter with talk of money, no doubt because Charlotte had been instrumental in helping raise the fare for his passage to Europe, Bob himself having been broke. (courtesy Charlotte Warren)

hawley i just ran percy williams worlds fastest human

copyright 2011 Samuel Hawley