On today’s date in 1928, Vancouver athlete Percy Williams won the gold medal in the 200-metre sprint while running against the fastest field ever assembled.
Two days later, he also won the 100-metre race.
William’s athletic career started on shaky ground. When he was 15 years old, Williams suffered from rheumatic fever and was advised to avoid strenuous physical activity; however, because his high school required participation in athletic competitions, he started training in sprinting in 1924.
By 1927, he was a local champion, and the following year, at the 1928 Olympic trials, he won both the 100- and 200-metre races, tying the Olympic 100-metre record of 10.6 seconds. He was also part of the Canadian team that was disqualified in the final of the 400-metre relay contest.
INJURY, DECLINE & DEATH
After his 1928 Olympic outing, Williams continued to triumph, winning the 100-yard dash at the inaugural British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton, Ont., and setting a world record in nearby Toronto in 1930.
Unfortunately, at the British Empire Games, Williams suffered a pulled thigh muscle and never made a full comeback.
At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100-metre event.
Williams lived with his mother until she died in 1977, after which he lived alone and in pain, suffering from arthritis. A collector of guns, Williams later shot himself in the head with a gun he had been awarded for his 1928 Olympic feat.
In 1996, Canada Post featured Williams on a 45-cent stamp (Scott # 1612) as part of its “Canadian Olympic Gold Medallists” issue. The stamps were printed by Ashton-Potter Canada using fluorescent coated paper instead of tagging.