Brian Sternberg
Click on photo for another great story about Brian.

No one had soared higher than Washington native, Brian Sternberg, pole vaulting to a world record height of 16ft 8 inches (5.08 m) on June 7, 1963. A sure lock to compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Sternberg’s plan for glory went awry. As part of his training, Sternberg was working out on a routine technique on the trampouline, one he had done many times before. This time he landed awkwardly on his neck, resulting in paralysis and leaving him a quadriplegic.

Texan, Fred Hansen eventually went on win the gold medal in pole vaulting in Tokyo, jumping only three quarters of an inch higher than Sternberg’s best jump. Not only were he and his fellow pole vaulting teammates beneficiaries from a special fund of $2,500 contributed by the Washington Athletic Club in Sternberg’s honor, which paid for their expenses to Tokyo, Hansen said he learned how to be a better pole vaulter from Sternberg. “Brian helped me out with several things I was

wilma_rudolphWilma Rudolph was one of the biggest stars of the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, surprising the world by becoming the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympic Games. A member of the famed Tennessee State Tigerbelles, she talks in the October 1, 1964 article below of how important it was for the women’s team in Japan to handle the pressure. My understanding is that Rudolph was one of the most care-free athletes in Rome, taking naps right before competitions, seeming to run without a worry in the world.

And while her compatriots in women’s track did not equal Rudolph’s accomplishments in Rome, Wyomia Tyus took gold in the 100 meters,