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"Mighty Jerome"

For the week of Monday, October 5, 2015

On October 8, 2010, a documentary about renowned sprinter Harry Jerome, titled “Mighty Jerome,” premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Jerome excelled in track and field, and contributed much to fitness in Canada.

Harry Jerome competing at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City
© Library and Archives Canada / PA-209764

Born in Saskatchewan in 1940, Jerome's family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in late 1952. As an avid athlete, Jerome was convinced by his high school track and field coach that his future lay in sprinting. In his senior year, he received a scholarship to the University of Oregon for his sprint performance, where he raced and earned a Master’s degree in physical education.

Jerome would go on to compete for Canada in sprinting for the next eight years, including at the Olympic Games of 1960, 1964, and 1968. Among his numerous achievements, Jerome equalled the world record for the 100-metre dash of 10.0 seconds at the Canadian Olympic trials in Saskatoon. He also equalled the world record for the 100-yard dash of 9.3 seconds in May 1961, becoming the first person to co-hold the world records for both events. Between 1964 and 1967, Jerome won two Bronze and two Gold medals in major international competitions. Jerome’s athletic career was not without adversity. A severe muscle tear in his left thigh during the 1962 Commonwealth Games threatened to end his career. After major surgery and a full recovery that his university coach described as “the greatest comeback in track and field history,” Jerome was back in competition in 1964, in time to win a Bronze medal in the 100-metre dash at the Tokyo Olympics, and setting the world record for the indoor 60-yard dash.

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Harry Jerome's statue is at Stanley Park in Vancouver
© Wikimedia Commons / Sujax

After his retirement from competition in 1968, Jerome  moved to Vancouver and accepted a position in the federal government’s Fitness and Amateur Sport Directorate, the precursor of today’s Sport Canada. There, he worked to promote amateur sport and fitness, and government sponsorship for amateur athletes.

Harry Winston Jerome was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in 2009. His inspirational career led to numerous honours during his lifetime and posthumously. Jerome was inducted into both Canada’s Olympic Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Jerome is also the namesake of one of Canada’s premier international amateur track and field competitions, the Harry Jerome International Track Classic. Jerome died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on December 7, 1982.

2015 is the Year of Sports! For more on African-Canadian athletes, please read Sam Langford and One of Boxing’s Best is Born! in the This Week in History archives.

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