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Bennett, Lewis (1831–18 January 1896), distance runner, was born Hagasadoni at the Cattaragus Reservation in Erie County, New York. The exact date of his birth and his parents’ names are unknown. A Seneca Indian of the Snipe clan, he was given the English name Lewis Bennett. As a professional runner, he competed under the name “Deerfoot.”...

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Brundage, Avery (28 September 1887–08 May 1975), athlete, businessman, and sports administrator, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Charles Brundage, a stonecutter, and Amelia “Minnie” Lloyd. After a move to Chicago, Charles Brundage deserted his family, leaving the five-year-old Avery and his brother Chester to be reared by their mother. Thanks to some fairly affluent uncles, the Brundages endured genteel rather than desperate poverty. Brundage worked his way through the University of Illinois, earning a B.A. in engineering in 1909. In college and after, he was a dedicated and successful track-and-field athlete. His participation in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, in the decathlon and pentathlon, was a defining experience. In an unpublished autobiography he wrote that his “conversion, along with many others, to [founder Pierre de] Coubertin’s religion, the Olympic Movement, was complete.” The choice of the word “religion” was deliberate. For Brundage, the Olympic Games were a utopian contrast to the sordid worlds of business and politics....

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Connolly, Harold (01 August 1931–18 August 2010), Olympic athlete, administrator, and teacher, was born Harold Vincent “Hal” Connolly, Jr., in Somerville, Massachusetts, to Margaret Connolly and Harold Connolly, Sr., working-class Irish Americans. He was raised in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. Complications during his birth resulted in a fractured left arm and nerve damage. As a result of this initial trauma, and repeated fractures as a child, his left arm grew to be four and a half inches shorter than his right arm. Likewise, his left hand was two-thirds the size of his right. Despite these obstacles Connolly persevered in the world of sports....

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Cunningham, Glenn V. (04 August 1909–10 March 1988), track and field athlete, was born in Atlanta, Kansas, the son of H. Clint Cunningham, a water well driller and odd-jobsman. His mother’s name is unknown. At age seven, Glenn and his thirteen-year-old brother Floyd were engulfed in a schoolhouse fire. Floyd received severe burns to his entire body and died days later. Glenn survived the fire but sustained near-crippling burns to his legs. After being bedridden for nearly six weeks, during which time doctors almost amputated his legs, Cunningham recovered his mobility through daily massage from his mother to restore the circulation to his badly scarred legs. Once he was able to walk again, he soon began running. As a result Cunningham increased his physical endurance and easily outran boys twice his age. A county mile-run champion at age thirteen, he excelled at the distance on the high school track team in Elkhart, Kansas. Cunningham reigned as the nation’s best high school miler in 1930, winning the event in the Kansas Relays (Interscholastic Division) in a national high school record of 4:31.4. He won the high school state championship in the mile and lowered the record to 4:28.4. As a final measure of his ability, Cunningham lowered the record to 4:24.7, winning the national interscholastic mile championship....

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Curtis, William Buckingham (17 January 1837–30 June 1900), champion amateur athlete and "father" of amateur athletics in America, champion amateur athlete and “father” of amateur athletics in America, was born in Salisbury, Vermont, the son of Henry Harvey Curtis, a Presbyterian minister and college president, and Elizabeth “Betsey” C. Deming. Betsey Curtis died from tuberculosis a year after Bill's birth, and by 1840 his father married Julia Ann Roberts. From 1841 to 1862, the year Bill's father died, the family moved for church assignments in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. This strong Christian home environment eventually influenced Curtis's philosophy of life and set the general pattern for his later efforts to “purify” sport....

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Clarence Harrison DeMar Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116340).

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DeMar, Clarence Harrison (07 June 1888–11 June 1958), marathon runner, was born in Maderia, Ohio, the son of George DeMar, a farmer, and Carol Abbott. DeMar attended elementary school in Madisonville, Ohio, before the death of his father required him to help support the family by selling goods made by his mother. At eight years of age he pushed a cart filled with the items, which included soap, thread, and sewing implements, walking 10 to 20 miles a day. When DeMar was 10 years old, his family moved to Warwick, Massachusetts, to live in a house owned by his mother’s relatives. Because his mother was unable to support him and his five younger siblings, the family split up; DeMar was sent to the Farm and Trades School on Thompsons Island in Boston Harbor. At age 16 DeMar left the school and went to South Hero, Vermont, where he worked for a fruit farmer and attended the Maple Lawn Academy. After graduating from the academy in 1908, he entered the University of Vermont. There he worked in the university print shop and as a delivery boy for the university experimental station. In the fall of 1909 DeMar quit school and returned to Melrose, Massachusetts, where he secured a job in a print shop to support his family....

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Babe Didrikson Competing in the first heat of the 80-meter hurdles, winning in a record-breaking 11.8 seconds, at the Los Angeles Olympics, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113281).

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Didrikson, Babe (26 June 1914?–27 September 1956), athlete, was born Mildred Ella Didriksen in Port Arthur, Texas, the daughter of Ole Nickolene Didriksen, a ship’s carpenter and cabinetmaker, and Hannah Marie Olsen, an accomplished skater and skier. Didrikson herself was later to change the last syllable of the surname from - ...

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Drew, Howard Porter (28 June 1890–19 February 1957), track and field athlete, was born in Lexington, Virginia, the son of David Henry Drew and May E. Mackey. At age twenty-one, after working for several years in a railroad depot, he entered high school in Springfield, Massachusetts. By the time Drew had entered high school, however, he ranked high among the nation’s best sprinters. In 1910 and 1911 he won both the 100- and 220-yard dashes at the junior Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track and field championships. Drew’s best times as a junior were 10.0 seconds for 100 yards and 21.8 seconds for 220 yards....

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Ewry, Ray (14 October 1873–29 September 1937), Olympic track-and-field champion, was born Raymond Clarence Ewry in Lafayette, Indiana, the son of George Ewry, a partner in a grocery store and bakery, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Afflicted with polio at the age of ten, Ewry followed a program of exercises prescribed by his doctor and succeeded in overcoming his physical disabilities. Since there were no high school athletic programs at that time, Ewry played basketball for the Lafayette Young Men’s Christian Association team. Ewry enrolled at Purdue University in 1890 and competed in track and field for the first time at the Purdue field day on 22 May 1891, when he won the high kick. At this meet he decided to concentrate on the standing jumps. At 6′ 3″, agile and long-legged, he was well equipped for these events. He became a champion in the standing broad jump, standing high jump, and high kick, setting the college records in each of these events. From a standing position, he reached 62″ in the high jump, 10′ 6½″ in the broad jump, and 9′ 2″ in the high kick. He played end on the football team for one season, until a shoulder injury forced him to withdraw....

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Flanagan, John J. (09 January 1873–04 June 1938), track and field athlete and coach, was born of poor farming parents in Kilmallack, Limerick County, Ireland (his parents’ names are unknown). As a boy, Flanagan could run, jump, and throw heavy weights with success against anyone in the county, and this in a nation that had been a world leader for a century in such sporting activities....

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Florence Griffith-Joyner. Used by permission of Photo Kishimoto.

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Griffith-Joyner, Florence (21 December 1959–21 September 1998), track and field star, was born Delorez Florence Griffith in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Robert Griffith, an electrician, and Florence Griffith (maiden name unknown), seamstress. When “Dee Dee” (as she was nicknamed) was four, her parents divorced and she moved with her mother and siblings to a housing project in the Watts section of Los Angeles. She began running while in elementary school at meets sponsored by the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, and by the age of fifteen she had won two consecutive Jesse Owens National Youth Games. As a member of an impoverished but disciplined family, Griffith learned from her grandmother how to style hair and fingernails, and she continued to excel in track and field at David Starr Jordan High School, from which she graduated in 1978....

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Gutterson, Albert Lovejoy (23 August 1887–07 April 1965), track and field athlete, was born in Andover, Vermont, the son of Charles Milton Gutterson, a farmer, and Elizabeth Lovejoy. Gutterson received his primary education in Simonsville, Vermont, and Peaseville, Vermont. In 1903 Gutterson’s father sold his farm and moved his family to Springfield, Vermont, in order for Albert to continue his secondary education. While attending Springfield High School, Gutterson participated in track and field and began to display his ability as a sprinter, hurdler, long jumper, high jumper, and discus thrower....

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Hahn, Archie (13 September 1880–21 January 1955), Olympic sprinter, was born Charles Archibald Hahn in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, the son of Charles Hahn, who was in the tobacco business, and Mary Howell. Portage High School, from which Hahn graduated, had no track team, but the muscular 5′ 5-¾″ teenager was an outstanding running back, reputedly the best football player in Wisconsin. He attended the University of Michigan as a prelaw student. Coach ...

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Hardin, Slats (01 July 1910–06 March 1975), track and field athlete, was born Glenn Foster Hardin in Derma, Calhoun County, Mississippi. While attending Greenwood High School in that community, Hardin was a good student and was considered the best three-sport athlete in the school’s history. As a result he won an academic-athletic scholarship to Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1931. While still an undergraduate student, he was selected to the U.S. Olympic team in 1932 and won the silver medal in a memorable 400-meter intermediate hurdles final inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The winner, Robert Morton Newburgh Tisdall of Ireland, broke the world record (52.0 seconds) with a 51.7-second performance, but he knocked over the tenth and last hurdle; under the rules at that time, which were not changed until 1938, his record run was unacceptable. Hardin was thus awarded the victory with a world record 52.0 seconds. In Tisdall’s autobiography ...

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Hayes, Johnny (10 April 1886–23 August 1965), Olympic marathon champion and professional runner, was born John Joseph Hayes in New York City, the son of poor Irish farming parents (names unknown) from the town of Nanagh, Tipperary, located near the river Shannon. He spent much of his youth running through the streets of Manhattan and was described as a 5′ 4″, 125-pound “nickled steel athlete, black-haired, blue-eyed, freckle-faced, with a ton of confidence in himself.” He joined the St. Bartholomew’s Club as well as the Irish-American Athletic Club and began his career as a long-distance runner....

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Hayward, William Louis (02 July 1868–14 December 1947), track and field athlete and coach, was born William Louis Heyward in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Thomas Heyward. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1878 William, his brother, and three sisters went to live with their grandparents in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, when their parents left North America to manage a Peruvian rubber plantation. Hayward lived in Toronto until 1888, when he left to earn a living as a professional athlete and a vaudeville performer....

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Hubbard, William DeHart (25 November 1903–23 June 1976), first African American to win an individual Olympic Games gold medal, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of William A. Hubbard. Olympic historians know nothing of his father’s occupation nor his mother’s full name at the time of her marriage. After excelling in both academics and athletics at Walnut Hills High Schools between 1918 and 1921, Hubbard entered the University of Michigan. As a freshman he tied the school record in the 50-yard dash, set a school record of 24′ 6¾″ in the long jump, and won two U.S. National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championships in the long jump (24′ 5½″) and triple jump (48′ 1½″). He won All-American honors in 1922, and until his graduation in 1925, his exploits reserved for him recognition as the greatest combination sprinter-jumper of the 1920s....