This week, Engage As You Age is blogging about three elderly Olympic athletes, who deserve to be recognized for their athletic achievements. See yesterday’s post on the oldest living American gold medalist, and check back tomorrow for another profile of one of the world’s oldest Olympic athletes—a 97-year-old gold medal swimmer!
Decades before Usain Bolt won Olympic gold in the 100-meter dash, Harrison Dillard won gold in the very same event. Which makes him the oldest-living Olympic 100-meter champ! Don’t mistake him for being the oldest living Olympian.
Dillard, 89, won a gold medal in the 100-meter race in the 1948 London Olympics. He is the only man to ever win Olympic gold medals in both the sprints and high hurdles. And he returned to London to watch Bolt defend his “world’s fastest man” title.
“I saw [Usain] Bolt in Beijing, and as they say, ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ when he ran the 100 meters. I’m wondering if he can do it again,” Dillard told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last month.
A lot has changed in Dillard’s life since he competed in the 1948 London games, held as Britain and the world struggled to recover from World War II. “In my day, it was purely amateur. You represented your country, period,” he told the Associated Press. “They are now able to make it a profession.”
Dillard grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Olympics and away from the track, he joined the Cleveland Indians’ public relations department in 1949. He also worked in radio and TV and wrote a weekly newspaper column for the now-defunct Cleveland Press.
The senior citizen still lives in a Cleveland suburb. He carried the Olympic flame in the 1984 and 2002 torch relay. This year, he traveled to London as a guest of the Omega watch company, which is still the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games.
Because even though much time has elapsed between Dillard and Bolt winning gold, no time can erase the memory of such an achievement.
“When they play that anthem and you’re standing there and it’s being played because of something you did it is a feeling that you can’t describe,” he said. “I remember in subsequent years watching the Olympic Games on television and [the athletes] some with tears streaming down their face, some look like they’re in shock. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I stood there the first time.”