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Canadian History for Kids - Percy Williams

Long before Donavon Bailey was breaking Olympic running records, a small man from Vancouver, Percy Williams was smashing records and putting his mark on the world track and field stage. This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada, looks at the amazing career and life of the Canadian Cheetah, Percy Williams.

Did Percy Williams leave a lasting impression on the track and field stage? Well a 1950 Canadian Press poll thinks so! This poll named Williams the top track and field athlete of the half century. That was updated in 1972 when he was declared Canada’s all time greatest Olympic athlete.

And the most dramatic event in Canadian sport? The choice was obvious: Percy Williams’ thrilling double victory in the 100m and 200m races at the 1928 Olympics.

Williams was lightening fast on his Vancouver high school track. In 1926, his blazing speed caught the attention of coach Bob Granger, who immediately took him under his wing and began to prepare the young athlete for greater races.

This Canadian History for Kids article continues in 1927 where he equaled the Olympic record of 10.6 seconds in the 100m sprint on a rough, grass track, at the British Columbia Olympic trials. That same year at the national Olympic trails in Hamilton, he easily won a spot on the boat to the Amsterdam Games with victories in the 100m and 200m races.

Few expected Williams to leave his mark on the international track scene, let alone reach the Olympic podium. Canadians were stunned on July 29, 1928, when the 19-year-old won the Olympic gold medal in the 100m event, beating out top runners from England, Germany, and the United States. But wait! This Canadian History for Kids story doesn’t end there! Three days later, the Canadian beat the world’s best once again in the 200m race, establishing himself as the fastest man on earth.

These victories at the Amsterdam Olympics were no flukes! This Canadian History for Kids article continues in 1929 when he joined the North American indoor track circuit and decisively swept the competition, winning an impressive 21 out of 22 races.

He set a new world record in 1930! 10.3 seconds in the 100m race. This Canadian History for Kids article continues later that year when he won a gold medal in the 100yd. race at the British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton, despite running with a pulled leg muscle.

He never fully recovered from the leg injury that plagued him during this race. This Canadian History for Kids article continues in 1932 when he captained the Canadian track and field team to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles but was eliminated in the semifinals of the 100m event. Williams stopped running after the Los Angeles Games and became an insurance agent.

He donated his 2 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 the medals were stolen.

Percy passed away, in Vancouver, in 1982.

And that’s this week Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada.

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