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Harold M. Osborn BS ’22 ACES

Olympic Track Gold Medalist, World Record Holder
Charter Member, U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Osborn


Harold Marion Osborn (April 13, 1899 – April 5, 1975) was a U.S. track athlete. He won a gold medal in Olympic decathlon and high jump in 1924. The apex of the athletic career of Harold M. Osborn occurred at the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, France (the VIII Olympiad, featured in the popular  film, Chariots of Fire). Osborn was the first and, to this day, the only athlete ever to win gold in both the decathlon and an individual event.

Osborn won gold medals and set Olympic records in both the high jump and the decathlon at the 1924 Olympics. His 6' 6" high jump remained the Olympic record for 12 years, while his decathlon score of 7,710.775 points also set a new world record, and resulted in worldwide press coverage calling him the “world’s greatest athlete.” The decathlon competition was especially grueling, conducted just four days after the high jump competition, and consisting of ten events run in extremely hot and humid weather conditions over two days at the end of the games.

After high school, Osborn attended the University of Illinois, from 1919 through 1922, majoring in agriculture. While at Illinois, he was a founding member of the Eta Chapter of Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity. He then accepted a high school teaching job at Lewiston, Illinois, where, sponsored by the Illinois Athletic Club of Chicago, he continued to train and to compete in track and field events in preparation for the upcoming 1924 Olympic games. Osborn left Lewiston after a couple of years to take a job at Champaign High School, where he would be closer to the University as he continued his training.

Although the 1924 Olympic games were a high point in Osborn’s career, there were many others. While competing for the University of Illinois in 1920, 1921, and 1922, Osborn helped Illinois win both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles all three years. He tied for the NCAA and AAU outdoor high jump championships in 1922.

Altogether Osborn won 17 national titles and set six world records during his career. He held world indoor records in the standing hop, step, and jump; the 60-yard high hurdles; and the running high jump. His world record in the standing high jump of 5' 5¾" still stands today (and will continue to stand as this event is no longer part of track contests). He achieved that record at the age of 37.

Olympic Athlete Harold Abrahams, who also competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics, and who later wrote and published about the Olympiads of his era, wrote in 1950, “After Nurmi, I think the outstanding performer was the American, Harold Osborn, who won both the high jump and the decathlon.

Osborn was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974.



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