Rod Milburn

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Rodney Milburn Jr
Personal information
Nationality American
Born (1950-03-18)March 18, 1950
Died November 11, 1997(1997-11-11) (aged 47)
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight 175 lb (79 kg)
Sport
Sport Running
Event(s) 110 metres hurdles
College team Southern University
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)

110 m hurdles: 13.24 s (Munich 1972 then WR)

120 y hurdles; 13.0 s Eugene, Oregon 1971 then WR)
Rod Milburn
Medal record
Men’s Athletics
Competitor for the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold 1972 Munich 110 m hurdles
Pan American Games
Gold 1971 Cali 110 m hurdles
Bronze 1971 Cali 4x100 m relay

Rodney "Rod" Milburn, Jr. (March 18, 1950 – November 11, 1997) was an American athlete who won gold at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich in the 110m hurdles.

Career[edit]

During the early 1970s, Milburn dominated the 110m hurdles, tying or breaking the world record for the 110 m hurdles/120 yards five times.[1][note 1][2][3] 1971, as a sophomore at Southern University, was when Milburn announced himself on the national and world stage. Amongst his achievements that year was his first world record. In a semi-final of the USA Championships he broke the record for 120 y with 13.0 s.[4][note 2] Milburn went on to win the title, in 13.1 s.[5] Milburn was to remain undefeated in 1971, including winning the 110m hurdles event at the 1971 Pan-American Games. He also showed his versatility by winning a bronze as a member of the United States sprint relay team at the Pan-American Games.[6][7] With these performances, Milburn earned the nickname "Hot Rod",[8] and was awarded the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year Award.[9] His home state, Louisiana, also recognised him by awarding him the James J. Corbett Award as the outstanding male athlete from the state in 1971. He was to receive the same award a second time in 1973.[10]

The overwhelming favourite to qualify for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Milburn in fact struggled but did qualify in 3rd place at the USA Olympic Trials. In the final he hit hurdles due to the pressure of the world-record holder Willie Davenport running alongside him and only managed to hold the vital third and last qualifying place by a foot.[11] In Munich Milburn won the gold medal in the 110m hurdles, tying the world record of 13.2 seconds, finishing ahead of Guy Drut and Thomas Hill. This time, which was recorded as 13.24 to the hundredth of a second, would become the first world record when only automatically recorded times would be ratified as world records.[1][note 3]

Milburn's triumph was overshadowed by other events. The qualifying rounds for the 110 m hurdles event was delayed by the suspension of the games following the terrorist attack in the Olympic Village. The final itself was then overlooked due to the furore over the behaviour of the American 400 meter runners Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett on the medal rostrum at their medal award ceremony.[12]

In 1973 Milburn continued to demonstrate he was the world's pre-eminent high-hurdler by breaking the world record for the 110 m hurdles with a 13.1 s, knocking 0.1 s off a record that had lasted for 14 years,[13] and equalling his own world record for 120 y hurdles of 13.0 s.[2] The record-breaking times in the 110 m hurdles happened on 6 July in Zurich, Switzerland and on the 22 July in Sienna, Italy; the record-equalling time in the 120 y hurdles happened on the 20 June in Eugene, Oregon.

After this season, with no prospect of playing American football professionally and not able to endorse commercial products as an amateur athlete, Milburn joined the fledgling professional athletics tour run by the International Track Association (ITA).[14] He was to remain unbeaten in their 1974 season.[15] The ITA folded in 1976. By running as a professional, Milburn was ineligible to compete at the Olympics and defend his title.

In 1975, Milburn tried briefly to become an American footballer with the fledgling World Football League team the Shreveport Steamer.[16][17] His try out was unsuccessful.[18]

Milburn returned as a hurdler in 1980 in time for an attempt at an Olympic comeback. However the boycott of the Olympics denied him that possibility. He did, however, run as an amateur for two seasons with some success against the new generation of high hurdlers.

Sporting commentators note that Milburn was important in the history of hurdling for introducing two innovations: the double-armed lead (to increase power) and the dime on the hurdle practice technique (hurdle over without knocking it off).[19]

Early life[edit]

Milburn turned to the hurdles under the tutelage of his high school coach Claude Parker at J.S. Clark High School in Opelousas, Louisiana.

By his senior year, he was the outstanding high school hurdler in the United States and broke the national age record for the 120 y hurdles at 13.5 s. Acknowledgements of his achievements at high school included being voted on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State track and field team in both his junior and senior years.[16]

Following high school, he went to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with an athletics scholarship.

Here he met Willie Davenport, the 1968 110 m hurdles champion, who recognised his potential as a future Olympic champion and mentored the young athlete. He was coached at college by Dick Hill who had coached amongst others Bob Hayes the 1964 100 m Olympic champion.

At college, Milburn had to balance the competing demands of study and training whilst being a newly wed. His wife, his childhood sweetheart, was also studying at college.[9]

Later life[edit]

Milburn finally retired from athletics in 1983. Milburn was appointed the head track coach at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1984 by his old college coach, Dick Hill. When Hill left Southern University in 1987, his replacement did not renew Milburn's contract.[20] Milburn struggled after this and took a job as a utility crewman at the Georgia-Pacific Corporation. paper and pulp mill in Port Hudson, Louisiana.

It was while working at this plant that Milburn died after falling into a tank containing a sodium chlorate solution.[21][22]

His death came as a huge shock to a track and field community that vividly remembered his achievements on the track. At his funeral a message of condolence from President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, was read out.[23]

For Milburn it was a great misfortune that his best years came at a time when it was impossible for even an Olympic champion to earn a good living from track and further that by running professionally he made himself ineligible to defend his Olympic title in 1976, and was then denied a chance to run in the 1980 Olympics by the 1980 Olympics boycott even when his eligibility for entry was reinstated.[20](In the end, a court injunction allowing the former professional athletes to run at the Olympic Trials came too late for Milburn to compete.[24])

Milburn was honoured as one of Louisiana's top 50 athletes of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.[23][25] and in 1988 was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.[16]

Rankings[edit]

Milburn was ranked among the best in the USA and the world in the 110m hurdles, in two periods separated by his time on the professional athletics circuit, according to the votes of the experts of Track and Field News.[26][27]

110 m hurdles
Year World rank US rank
1970 6th 4th
1971 1st 1st
1972 1st 1st
1973 1st 1st
1974 - -
1975 - -
1976 - -
1977 - -
1978 - -
1979 - -
1980 5th 4th
1981 8th 7th
1982 4th 3rd

USA Championships[edit]

Milburn was a very successful competitor at 110 m hurdles in the USA National Track and Field Championships during two periods between 1970 and 1981 separated by his time on the professional athletics circuit.:[28]

USA Championships
Year 110 m hurdles
1970 4th
1971 1st
1972 1st
1973 5th
1980 4th
1981 5th

In addition, Milburn was four times United States champion indoors at 60 m/60 y hurdles - in 1972-73 and 1980-81.[29] He also set world records indoors for 50 y hurdles in 5.8 s, the 55 m hurdles in 6.8 s, and the 60 y hurdles in 6.7 s.[16][30]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 120 yards is 109.73m, a difference of 27 cm with 110 m. This means for record purposes there is no conversion factor applied for hand-timing when converting between times recorded for the two distances.
  2. ^ The world record was first set 13.2 s for 110 m hurdles by Martin Lauer in 1959. As discussed above, this time is equivalent to running 13.2 s for the 120 y hurdles. The record of 13.2 s was equalled 5 times in the intervening years, including by Erv Hall for 120 y in 1969.
  3. ^ From 1 January 1977, only automatic timings were accepted as world records by the IAAF. In addition, the IAAF scrapped world records for all imperial distances except for the mile.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009." (pdf). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Pages 546, 553. 
  2. ^ a b Progression of IAAF World Records 2011 Edition, Editor Imre Matrahazi, IAAF Athletics, p 117-119 & p 501.
  3. ^ http://www.nfhs.org/content.aspx?id=3424 "Coverting Times from English to Metric Distances", National Federation of State High School Associations.
  4. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1085038/index.htm "Firstest, Fastest And Mostest", Pat Putnam & Skip Myslenski, Sports Illustrated, July 5, 1971.
  5. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19710626&id=hSUwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=s-wDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7335,3587506 "Rod Milburn Sets Record; Prefontaine Wins Hot Three", Bob Payne, The Spokesman-Review, June 26, 1971.
  6. ^ http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/mi/rod-milburn-1.html Rod Milburn, sports-reference.com.
  7. ^ http://digilander.libero.it/Mennea/Stagionali/WRL/1971/4x100.htm 4x100 m best performances 1971.
  8. ^ http://www.hurdlesfirst.com/quietchampion2.htm "Rodney Milburn: The Quiet Champion, Chapter Two, The First Hurdle: Wooden Hurdles on a Grass Track", Steve McGill, www.hurdlesfirst.com, 2010.
  9. ^ a b http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DlZVGZcX0hQC&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=rod+milburn+world+record&source=bl&ots=iZyttAFZKe&sig=-uYApkqaYSFnujxGGs0Ub3_6fKE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gQ0MUd2jJ4nO0QWrnIDgAg&sqi=2&ved=0CGYQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=rod%20milburn%20world%20record&f=false "Rod Milburn: Reluctant Hero", Frank Litzky, Boy's Life, August 1972.
  10. ^ http://www.allstatesugarbowl.org/site59.php "The Corbett Award", Official Site of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  11. ^ http://www.usatf.org/statistics/champions/OlympicTrials/HistoryOfTheOlympicTrials.pdf The History of the United States Olympic Trials - Track & Field, R Hymans, USA Track & Field, 2008
  12. ^ http://www.hurdlesfirst.com/tomhill72.htm "Takin’ it Back to ’72, Through the Eyes of Tom Hill", Steve McGill, 2005.
  13. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1948&dat=19730708&id=Z7gtAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CYEFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1059,2000476 "Rod Milburn Snaps Oldest World Record", The Modesto Bee, July 8, 1973.
  14. ^ http://www.hurdlesfirst.com/quietchampion6.htm "Rodney Milburn: The Quiet Champion, Chapter Seven, The Sixth Hurdle: From College to the Pros", Steve McGill, www.hurdlesfirst.com, 2011.</
  15. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oBAlRrvBsu0C&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=professional+track+and+field+ita&source=bl&ots=9ltv2BYutn&sig=IplNzWu0aiY8KsG_3qBDGNeAYEc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IPc0Ua75K8Hb0QXl9YEQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=professional%20track%20and%20field%20ita&f=false "The End of Amateurism in American Track and Field", Joseph M Turrini, University of Illinois Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-252-03515-9.
  16. ^ a b c d http://www.lasportshall.com/inductees/track-and-field/rodney-milburn/?back=inductee Rodney Milburn, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
  17. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19750611&id=cG4sAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iIoFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5893,2409400 "Steamer Likes Milburn", Associated Press, Herald-Journal, June 11, 1975.
  18. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19750801&id=5x9OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XO0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=7065,176878 "Broken Leg to Bullock Costs SF", Associated Press, The Spokesman-Review August 1, 1975.
  19. ^ http://www.hurdlesfirst.com/110%20Greats.htm "110 Greats", Steve McGill, www.hurdlesfirst.com.
  20. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/1997/nov/16/sports/sp-54586 "Milburns's Golden Age Ended Early", Mike Penner, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1997.
  21. ^ Goldstein, Richard (November 13, 1997). "Rod Milburn, 47, High Hurdler; Earned Gold at Munich Games". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  22. ^ Wallechinsky, David; Loucky, Jaime (2012). The Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 Edition. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 978 1 84513 695 6. 
  23. ^ a b http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/rod-milburn-talented-athlete-and-much-more Rod Milburn, African American Registry. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  24. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1123570/2/index.htm "Trying Hard To Go Nowhere", Kenny Moore, Sports Illustrated, July 7, 1980.
  25. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/features/si50/states/louisiana/greatest/ "The 50 Greatest Louisiana Sports Figures", Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary, 2003.
  26. ^ "World Rankings Index--Men's 110 m hurdles". Track and Field News. 
  27. ^ "U.S. Rankings Index--Men's 110 m hurdles". Track and Field News. 
  28. ^ http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/index.php/tafn-presults?list_id=36&sex_id=M&event_id=13 USA Outdoor Track and Field Champions, Men's 110 m hurdles, USA Track and Field.
  29. ^ http://www.usatf.org/statistics/USA-Champions/USAIndoorTF/men/60mH.aspx USA Indoor Track & Field Champions, 60 m Hurdles, USA Track and Field.
  30. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19740225&id=0B5OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Oe0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4327,3905841 "Record Night in Pokey", The Spokesman-Review, February 25, 1974.

External links[edit]

Records
Preceded by
United States Willie Davenport
Men's 110m Hurdles World Record Holder
September 2, 1972 — August 21, 1977
Succeeded by
Cuba Alejandro Casañas
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
United States Randy Matson
Track & Field Athlete of the Year
1971
Succeeded by
Finland Lasse Virén
Sporting positions
Preceded by
United States Thomas Hill
Men's 110m Hurdles Best Year Performance
1971 — 1973
Succeeded by
France Guy Drut