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Percy Williams

Full name: Percy Alfred Williams
Gender: Male
Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
Weight: 123 lbs (56 kg)
Born: May 19, 1908 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: November 29, 1982 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Affiliations: Vancouver Athletic Club, Vancouver (CAN)
Country: CAN Canada
Sport: Athletics

Medals: 2 Gold (2 Total)

Biography

Canadian Percy Williams was always an underdog to have any sort of athletic career, much less to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Already a slight boy, he was afflicted with rheumatic fever at the age of fifteen and instructed by his doctors to avoid demanding physical activities. Nevertheless, he took up running in 1924, as athletic competition was mandated by his high school, and, by 1927, he was becoming well-known in his native Vancouver for participating in – and winning – local running events. He worked as a waiter and dishwasher in a dining car to earn his passage to Hamilton, Ontario where the trials for the 1928 Summer Olympics were being held. Despite having never taken part in a competitive 100 metre race, he won it in a time of 10.6 seconds, equaling the Olympic record. With a subsequent victory in the 200 metre event he was guaranteed a spot on the Canadian delegation.

Williams did not disappoint: he twice equaled the Olympic record during the 100 and easily captured the gold medal in the final. His victory came as such a surprise to the international community that the medal presentation was delayed while Olympic administrators scrambled to find a recording of the Canadian anthem to play. Offered the chance by Canadian officials to drop out of the 200 because of his success, he declined and went on to capture that title as well. He again had the opportunity to be replaced, this time in the 4×100 relay, but decided to press on. His luck did not hold out, however, and the Canadian team was disqualified after his teammate Buck Hester dropped the baton while attempting to pass it Williams.

There was still more gold in his future, however, and he captured the 100 yard dash at the inaugural British Empire Games in 1930. Several days prior he had set a world in the 100 metres by becoming the first person to run the distance in 10.3 seconds, a feat that would not be equaled for nearly two years nor beaten for almost six. It was to be the end of his athletic career, however, as he pulled a muscle during the British Empire Games and was never able to regain his former glory. He competed in the 100 metre event and the sprint relay at the 1932 Summer Olympics, but he failed to medal in either category and retired soon thereafter. He then led a low-key life as an insurance salesman, never marrying, and committed suicide in 1982 after suffering from depression and chronic arthritic pain. In 1950 a Canadian Press poll named him the greatest national track and field performer of the last fifty years and upgraded him to "Canada's All-Time Olympic athlete" in 1972. In 1978 he was bestowed the Vancouver Civic Recognition Award and in 1980 he was made a member of the Order of Canada. He is enshrined in both the British Columbia and Canadian Sports Halls of Fame.

Personal Bests: 100y – 9.6 (1929/30/32); 100 – 10.3 (1930); 200 – 21.7 (1929).

Results

Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Men's 100 metres Canada CAN 1 Gold
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Men's 200 metres Canada CAN 1 Gold
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay Canada CAN AC
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Men's 100 metres Canada CAN 4 h1 r3/4
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay Canada CAN 4

Men's 100 metres

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T L T(H) T(A)
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Final 1 10.8 3
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Semi-Finals Heat One 2 QU/=OR 10.6
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Quarter-Finals Heat Four 1 QU/=OR 10.6
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Round One Heat Twelve 1 QU 11.0
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Canada Semi-Finals Heat One 4 10.8 10.91
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Canada Quarter-Finals Heat One 3 QU 10.7
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Canada Round One Heat Four 3 QU 11.1

Men's 200 metres

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T L
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Final 1 21.8 2
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Semi-Finals Heat One 1 QU 22.0
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Quarter-Finals Heat Six 2 QU 21.8
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada Round One Heat Fourteen 1 QU 22.6

Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay

Games Age City Sport Team NOC Phase Unit Rank L T T(H)
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada CAN Final AC DQ 3
1928 Summer 19 Amsterdam Athletics Canada CAN Round One Heat One 1 QU 42.2
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Canada CAN Final 4 3 41.3
1932 Summer 24 Los Angeles Athletics Canada CAN Round One Heat Two 3 QU 45.0