Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic decathlon champion, dies at 86

He was 86. No reason behind demise was given. A statement from the school mentioned he died at his Sherman Oaks, California, dwelling surrounded by household.

Johnson’s win in Rome in 1960 was one of the memorable finishes to a decathlon in Olympic historical past. In a battle with C.Okay. Yang of Taiwan — Johnson’s UCLA teammate — the American held a slim lead going into the 1,500-meter run, the ultimate occasion.

The two males have been in the identical warmth, and although it was Yang’s finest occasion, Johnson stayed shut sufficient to win the decathlon by simply 58 factors.

According to Bleacher Report, Johnson mentioned: “I had one advantage. And I don’t think C.K. knew this at the time — this was my last decathlon. I was prepared to run as fast as I had to in this last race of my life.”

Johnson who later grew to become an activist and an actor additionally gained the silver medal within the 1956 Olympic decathlon. It was the final time he would not win a decathlon he entered.

“We are extremely saddened to lose one of the greatest humans one could hope to know,” mentioned Avery Anderson, UCLA’s director of monitor & subject/cross nation. “Most people know him to be an all-time UCLA and Olympic great as an athlete, but that only scratches the surface of what he gave the world.

“Rafer set the usual of what an icon needs to be – a humanitarian, a frontrunner, a fantastic good friend and mentor, and most significantly a fantastic patriarch to probably the most fantastic household I’ve ever identified.”

Johnson was born on August 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas, and moved to California in middle school, according to USA Track & Field. In high school, he played football, baseball, basketball and track.

He went on to compete for UCLA in track and field, earning academic and athletic scholarships, arriving in Westwood in 1954. He won a gold medal in the decathlon at the Pan American Games in 1955. In 1956, he led UCLA to its first NCAA title for track and field.

While at UCLA, Johnson also played two seasons for legendary men’s basketball coach John Wooden, including as a starter in 1958-59, leading the Bruins in field goal percentage. He was third on the team in scoring with 8.2 points per game.

Johnson’s a member of the US Olympic and & Paralympic Hall of Fame and the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.

After his athletic career, Johnson worked for President John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps.

He also helped to found Special Olympics Southern California.

He was working with the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, when the Democratic candidate was fatally shot. Johnson, former NFL star Rosey Grier and journalist George Plimpton helped subdue the gunman, Sirhan Sirhan.

Johnson was married to his wife, Betsy, for 49 years, according to USA Track and Field. His daughter, Jenny Johnson-Jordan, was an Olympian in beach volleyball in 2000, and his son, Josh Johnson, was an All-America javelin thrower for UCLA. His brother, Jimmy Johnson(*86*), is within the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his profession with the San Francisco 49ers.

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