Harrison Dillard, Four-Time Olympic Gold Medalist & Hurdles Legend, Dies at 96

Harrison Dillard, the four-time Olympic gold medal winner and hurdles champion, has died of stomach cancer at a Cleveland hospital. He was 96.

Dillard’s longtime friend Ted Theodore confirmed to Cleveland.com that he died on Friday, November 15, after being hospitalized for a week at the Cleveland Clinic.

Harrison Dillard, an Olympic hurdler in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, carries the Olympic Flame during the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Torch Relay in Cleveland, Ohio | Photo: Getty Images

Harrison Dillard, an Olympic hurdler in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, carries the Olympic Flame during the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Torch Relay in Cleveland, Ohio | Photo: Getty Images

"It is a loss for humanity," Theodore said, adding that:

"He (Dillard) was an example for all of us, how to live our lives, with never an unkind word for anyone. He was a champion, a true champion."

According to the outlet, Dillard granted an interview earlier this month, recalling his days in the Army and giving a shout-out to "all the servicemen and women for their service."

Dillard stunned spectators at the 1948 Olympics in London when he sped past some of the world’s fastest men to clinch gold

Dillard was born in Cleveland on July 8, 1923. Per the Washington Post, his father sold ice and coal door-to-door from a horse-drawn wagon, and his mother was a housemaid.

Dillard suffered from rickets as an infant. His late mother, Tarah, reportedly said over six decades ago that her son could not stand until he was 16 months old.

You’d think that would translate into an impediment for the young Dillard, but according to him, speed was in his genes. "I inherited my speed from my father, William Dillard," he once revealed. "When I was 14, and plenty fast, Dad could beat me in a race."

At a young age, Dillard was influenced by the success of another legendary track and field athlete, Jesse Owens. With his determination and unwavering support from his mother, Dillard kicked off his career.

Dillard quickly made a name for himself at Kennard Junior High in Cleveland and kept the momentum through East Tech High and Baldwin Wallace College. In 2015, his statue was unveiled at his alma mater, now Baldwin Wallace University.

Dillard stunned spectators at the 1948 Olympics in London when he sped past some of the world’s fastest men to clinch gold in the 100-meter dash. He would bag a second one for running on the winning relay that same year.

Dillard’s other two gold medals came during the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki – in the 110-meter hurdles and the 4x100 meter relay. He remains the only male runner in history to win Olympic gold in both a dash and the high hurdles.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Dillard is the 1955 Sullivan Award winner as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete and was the oldest living U.S. Olympic champion.

Throughout his career, Dillard won more than 400 races – 82 in a row at one point. He also reportedly won 11 indoor and outdoor national championships. He held world hurdles records at 60 yards indoors, and 110 yards, and 220 yards outdoors.

Dillard and his late wife, Joy Clemetson, shared a daughter, Teri, but a complete list of survivors could not immediately be confirmed following his death.

Rest in Peace, Harrison Dillard, a.k.a Bones.

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