Percy Williams (sprinter)

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Percy Williams
Percy Williams 1928.jpg
Percy Williams at the 1928 Olympics
Personal information
Born May 19, 1908
Vancouver, Canada
Died November 29, 1982 (aged 74)
Vancouver, Canada
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight 56 kg (123 lb)
Sport Sprint running
Club Vancouver Athletic Club

Percy A. Williams, OC (May 19, 1908 – November 29, 1982) was a Canadian athlete, winner of the 100 m and 200 m races at the 1928 Summer Olympics and a former world record holder for the 100 metres sprint.


At the age of 15 Williams suffered from rheumatic fever and was advised to avoid strenuous physical activities. However, as his high school required participation in athletic competitions, he started training in sprint in 1924 and by 1927 became a local champion. At the 1928 Olympic trials he won the 100 m and 200 m races, equaling the Olympic 100 m record of 10.6 seconds.[1][2]

To earn his travel ticket for the trials Wiliams and his volunteer coach Bob Granger worked as waiters and dishwashers in a dining car, and Vancouver track fans raised the money to pay Granger's transatlantic ship passage to the 1928 Olympics.[2] At the Olympics Williams won both the 100 m and 200 m races. He was also part of the Canadian team which was disqualified in the final of the 4×100 metre relay contest.[1]

Williams showed that his success was not an accident, winning the 100 yard dash at the inaugural British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and setting a World Record at a meet in Toronto in 1930. He suffered a pulled thigh muscle at the British Empire Games and never made a full comeback.[1][3] At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 metre event. With the Canadian team he finished fourth in the 4×100 metre relay competition. Subsequently, Williams stopped running and became an insurance agent.[2]

In 1979, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[4]

Williams stayed with his mother until she died in 1977.[2] After that, he lived alone and suffered from arthritic pain. A keen collector of guns, Williams shot himself in the head with a gun he had been awarded in 1928 as a prize for his Olympic feat. His suicide was a surprise to everyone and no note was left.[5] He was interred at Masonic Cemetery of British Columbia, Burnaby, Canada.

In 1950, a Canadian press poll proclaimed Percy Williams Canada's greatest track athlete of the first half of the century. They updated that in 1972 to declare him Canada's all time greatest Olympic athlete. He had donated two gold medals from the 1928 Olympics to the BC Sports Hall of Fame, saying that he wanted them to be seen and remembered. Within weeks they were stolen. It was said at the time that Percy Williams, the fastest man of his generation, simply shrugged off the loss and no replacements were ever issued.


  1. ^ a b c Percy Williams.
  2. ^ a b c d Geoff D'Auria (4 August 2012). "Vancouver's Forgotten Track Star". Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  3. ^ CBC, 2010 Commonwealth Games, Opening Ceremonies, circa 20 minute mark, airdate 3 October 2010, 9:00am-12:00pm (Eastern), CBC Television main broadcast network
  4. ^ Percy A. William, Order of Canada
  5. ^ Samuel Hawley, I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World's Fastest Human (Ronsdale Press, 2011), p. 272.

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