Bob Richards
Team USATrack and Field

Bob Richards

Three-time Olympian (1948, 1952, 1956); three-time Olympic medalist (2 golds, 1 bronze) London 1948, bronze (pole vault) Helsinki 1952, gold (pole vault) Melbourne 1956, gold (pole vault)

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    Athlete Bio

    Bob Richards


    Champaign, IL


    Champaign Central High School (Champaign, Ill.) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    One of five children...Tried the pole vault in seventh grade after participating in diving, football and tumbling...Was raised by a minister in the Church of the Brethren after the breakup of his home due to his parents’ divorce...Became a Brethren minister in 1946...Taught sociology at the University of Illinois in the late 1940s upon his retirement from track and field...Was named a Goodwill Ambassador to Asia by the U.S. State Department and delivered speeches on sports and patriotism...Held pulpits in the Church of the Brethren and joined the faculty at La Verne College (now University of La Verne)...Wrote an autobiography in 1959 entitled, “Heart of a Champion”...Father to four sons, three of whom have vaulted higher than their father.

    Bob Richards is the only man to win two Olympic gold medals in the pole vault and was the first athlete to appear on the front of a Wheaties box. The Champaign, Illinois, native won 20 national Amateur Athletic Union track and field titles, including 17 in the pole vault and three in the decathlon. He won the bronze medal in pole vault at the Olympic Games Berlin 1948. Four years later, Richards, then a theology professor and ordained minister, won his first gold at the Helsinki Games. He would defend his Olympic title at the Melbourne 1956 Games, becoming the first and only man to win two Olympic golds in the pole vault. His four sons each competed in pole vaulting, and as he aged, Richards himself continued to compete in track and field events in the origins of what is now masters athletics.
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