16 April 1906|
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
|Died||26 January 1980
Northbrook, Illinois, United States
|Height||6 ft 3 in (191 cm)|
|Weight||220 lb (100 kg)|
As a youth, Peden was a natural athlete, participating in several sports, and was nationally ranked in swimming. He took up bicycle racing in 1925 and trained intensively for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He was selected for the Canadian team and competed in three Olympic events. Afterward, he remained in Europe to join the cycling circuit. In 1929, he returned to Canada. After winning five titles at the indoor Canadian championships in Montreal, he turned professional.
He discovered and excelled at six-day racing. During the Great Depression, the sport was cheap for spectators and very popular. Beginning in 1929, he won 24 of 48 races over the next four years. In 1932, he set a record that still stands: 10 victories. At times, he teamed up with his younger brother Doug (the sport used two-man teams). Overall, he won 38 of 148, a record unbroken until 1965. In 1931, he set a record; riding behind a car providing a shield against the wind, he achieved a speed of 73.5 miles per hour (118.3 km/h). He also coached the 1932 national cycling team and the 1936 track team.
He was a showman, popular with the fans. He would grab a scarf or hat from a spectator and ride around with it for a few laps before returning it to its owner. The redhead acquired the nickname "Torchy" when a journalist described him as a "flame-haired youth leading the pack like a torch". He was rumoured to have earned $50,000 a year, an enormous sum at the time. (For comparison, Babe Ruth made $80,000 in 1930.)
He moved to the United States in the 1950s and opened a sporting goods store.
- "Honoured Member Stories". Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- "William "Torchy" Peden". BC Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "William J. Peden". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "William Peden Olympic Results". sports-reference.com. Retrieved 3 June 2014.