Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic decathlon champion, dies at 86



He was 86. No reason for dying was given. A assertion from the college mentioned he died at his Sherman Oaks, California, residence 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 2 males had been in the identical warmth, and even if it was Yang’s finest occasion, Johnson stayed shut sufficient to win the decathlon by simply 58 factors.

Based on Bleacher Report, Johnson mentioned: “I had one benefit. And I do not suppose C.Okay. knew this on the time — this was my final decathlon. I used to be ready to run as quick as I needed to on this final race of my life.”

Johnson who later turned 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’re extraordinarily saddened to lose one of many biggest people one might hope to know,” mentioned Avery Anderson, UCLA’s director of monitor & discipline/cross nation. “Most individuals know him to be an all-time UCLA and Olympic nice as an athlete, however that solely scratches the floor of what he gave the world.

“Rafer set the usual of what an icon must be – a humanitarian, a pacesetter, an ideal buddy and mentor, and most significantly an ideal patriarch to probably the most fantastic household I’ve ever recognized.”

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Johnson was born on August 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas, and moved to California in center college, in keeping with USA Observe & Subject. In highschool, he performed soccer, baseball, basketball and monitor.

He went on to compete for UCLA in monitor and discipline, incomes educational and athletic scholarships, arriving in Westwood in 1954. He gained a gold medal within the decathlon on the Pan American Video games in 1955. In 1956, he led UCLA to its first NCAA title for monitor and discipline.

Whereas at UCLA, Johnson additionally performed two seasons for legendary males’s basketball coach John Wood, together with as a starter in 1958-59, main the Bruins in discipline objective share. He was third on the crew in scoring with 8.2 factors per recreation.

Johnson’s a member of the US Olympic and & Paralympic Corridor of Fame and the Nationwide Observe & Subject Corridor of Fame.

After his athletic profession, Johnson labored for President John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps.

He additionally helped to discovered Particular Olympics Southern California.

He was working with the presidential marketing 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 spouse, Betsy, for 49 years, in keeping with USA Observe and Subject. His daughter, Jenny Johnson-Jordan, was an Olympian in seashore volleyball in 2000, and his son, Josh Johnson, was an All-America javelin thrower for UCLA. His brother, Jimmy Johnson, is within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame after his profession with the San Francisco 49ers.



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