Don Bragg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Don Bragg
Don Bragg 1960.jpg
Don Bragg in 1960
Personal information
Born(1935-05-15)May 15, 1935
Penns Grove, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedFebruary 16, 2019(2019-02-16) (aged 83)
Oakley, California, U.S.
Height1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Weight89 kg (196 lb)
SportPole vaulting
ClubVillanova Wildcats

Donald George Bragg (May 15, 1935 – February 16, 2019) was an American athlete who competed mainly in the pole vault and won a gold medal in that event at the 1960 Summer Olympics.[1]


Bragg grew up in Penns Grove, New Jersey, where he attended Penns Grove High School.[2]

Bragg was the last of the great pole vaulters to use an aluminum pole. From 1954 until 1960, he was always world ranked and capped a championship career in 1960 by setting a world record of 15' 9¼" (4.80 m) at the Olympic Trials and winning an Olympic gold medal with a vault of 15' 5" (4.70 m). He set a world indoor record of 15' 9½" (4.81 m) at Philadelphia in 1959 and, like Hall of Famer Cornelius Warmerdam, vaulted better indoors than outdoors.

At 6' 3" and 197 pounds, Bragg was one of the largest vaulters in history. He had to stay on a 1,200-calorie (5,000 kJ) diet to stay at that weight — any more and the aluminum alloy poles would crumple under the strain.[3] The aluminum pole had another disadvantage: While taking it aboard a train in Philadelphia, Bragg hit an electrical line and was nearly electrocuted.[4]

While at Villanova University, he won the NCAA pole vault championship in 1955 and was the IC4A champion, both indoors and outdoors, from 1955 to 1957. He also tied for the AAU indoor championship. After graduating in 1957, Bragg again tied for the AAU indoor championship in 1958, then won the event from 1959 through 1961. He was also the AAU outdoor champion in 1959.[1]

Nicknamed "Tarzan" because of his size and strength, Bragg's goal was to play that role in the movies. Few have so actively pursued a role. He toured Europe and Africa for the U.S. Department of State as a goodwill ambassador, climbing trees and swinging from vines.[2] He met Johnny Weissmuller, who agreed that Bragg would be perfect as Tarzan. When he won the gold at the 1960 Olympics he did the infamous Tarzan yell from the podium, shocking the crowd. He was offered the role twice, but was injured and missed both opportunities. His dream went unfulfilled.

He later became athletic director at Stockton State College in New Jersey, the owner of a summer camp, and the author of A Chance to Dare: The Don Bragg Story.[1] His time running a summer camp is chronicled in Kamp Olympik by Don and Theresa Bragg, as told to Patricia Doherty.

In August 2010, Bragg made a speech in Rome at a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1960 Summer Olympics. He concluded this speech with his Tarzan yell.[5]

His younger sister, Diane Bragg, also learned how to pole vault by watching her brother. In 1952, long before women were pole vaulting competitively, Diane set the women's world record that stood for over 25 years.[6]

Bragg died at his home in Oakley, California, from the effects of Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and a stroke on February 16, 2019, aged 83.[7][8]


  • World Record: pole vault — 4.80 m (July 2, 1960)[9]


  • 1955 NCAA: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1957 AAU Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1958 AAU Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1959 AAU Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1959 AAU Outdoors: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1960 AAU Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
  • 1960 Summer Olympics: Pole Vault — 4.70 m (1st)
  • 1961 AAU Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)



  1. ^ a b c Don Bragg.
  2. ^ a b "The Twig Was Bent", Time (magazine), April 20, 1959. Accessed December 16, 2008.
  3. ^ Don Bragg and Patricia Doherty (2003) A Chance to Dare: The Don Bragg Story, Virtual Bookworm, p. 77, ISBN 1589393422.
  4. ^ Bill Livingston, Above and Beyond Part Four, The Plain Dealer
  5. ^ "Golden Reunion for Don Bragg in Rome"[permanent dead link], Clayton Pioneer, July 23, 2012. Accessed July 28, 2012.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Don Bragg, former Olympic hero who starred at Penns Grove and Villanova, dies at 83". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  8. ^ Goldstein, Richard (February 18, 2019). "Don Bragg, Olympic Pole-Vault Champion, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Page 555. Archived from the original (pdf) on August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
Preceded by
United States Robert Gutowski
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
July 2, 1960 – May 20, 1961
Succeeded by
United States George Davies