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Harry Jerome receives the Order of Canada

For the week of Monday December 13, 2010

On December 18, 1970, Harry Winston Jerome was awarded the Order of Canada Medal of Service in recognition of his achievements in track and field, and for his contributions to fitness in Canada. Born in Saskatchewan in 1940, Jerome’s family moved to British Columbia in late 1952. An avid athlete who played many sports, Jerome was convinced by his high school track and field coach that his future lay in sprinting. As a high school senior, Jerome received a scholarship to the University of Oregon for his performance in sprinting, where he earned a Master’s degree in physical education.

Harry Jerome competing at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico
© Library and Archives Canada / PA-209764
Jerome would go on to compete for Canada in sprinting for the next eight years, including the Olympic Games in 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 suffered at 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 set the world record for the indoor 60-yard dash.

At a press conference on the sports policy tabled in the House of Commons, March 20, 1970
© Canada / Fitness and Amateur Sport Directorate / Library and Archives Canada / PA-130372

After his retirement from competition in 1968, Jerome 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 on behalf of Canadians, as well as government sponsorship for amateur athletes. 

Jerome died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on December 7, 1982. 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. Harry Winston Jerome was designated a national historic person in 2009.

For more on African-Canadian athletes, please read: Sam Langford and One of Boxing’s Best is Born!

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