August 29, 1945 |
Griffin, Georgia, United States
|Height||1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Weight||61 kg (134 lb)|
|Event(s)||100 m, 200 m|
|Club||TSU Tigers, Nashville|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||100 yd – 10.3 (1965)
100 m – 11.08 (1968)
200 m – 23.08 (1968)
Wyomia Tyus (pronunciation: why-o-mia; born August 29, 1945) is a retired American track and field sprinter, and the first person to retain the Olympic title in the 100 m (a feat since duplicated by Carl Lewis, Gail Devers, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt).
Raised on a dairy farm, as the youngest of four children, and the only girl in the family Tyus was encouraged by her father to participate in sport. While a high school athlete Tyus participated in basketball and began her track endeavors as a high jumper before transitioning to the sprints after being invited to a summer track clinic at Tennessee State University in 1960. It was in this same year that Tyus's father died leaving the job of male role model in Tyus's life to her soon to be track coach at Tennessee State Edward Stanley Temple.
College and professional career
Tyus, from Tennessee State University, participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics at age 19. In the heats of the event, she equaled Wilma Rudolph's world record, propelling her to a favored position for the final, where her main rival was fellow American Edith McGuire. Tyus won the final, beating McGuire by 0.2 seconds. At the same Olympics, she also won a silver medal with the 4 × 100 m relay team.
The following years, Tyus won numerous national championships in the sprint events, and a gold medal in the 200 m at the Pan-American Games. In 1968, she returned to the Olympics to defend her title in the 100 m. In the final, she set a new world record of 11.08 s to become the first person, male or female, to retain the Olympic 100 metres title. Tyus also qualified for the 200 m final, in which she finished sixth. Running the final leg for the relay team, Tyus helped setting a new world record, winning her third gold medal.
Tyus retired from amateur sports after the 1968 Olympics. In 1973 she was invited to compete in the 60-yard dash in the new Professional International Track Association competitions. In her first-year return, she won eight of eighteen events. The following year, she won every event she entered, a total of twenty-two races. Tyus continued to compete in the 60 yard dash up until 1982.
During the Richard Dawson era of Family Feud, Tyus appeared with her family. They won the $5,000 prize. In 1980, Tyus was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, she was one of eleven athletes who carried in the Olympic Flag during the Opening Ceremony. In 1985, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
In 1999 her hometown Griffin, Georgia honored her with the unveiling of the Wyomia Tyus Olympic Park. The 2010 Breeder's World Cup featured a two year-old filly racing horse bearing her namesake.
Tyus was raised in a primarily white neighbor throughout her childhood and became aware of her race at an early age. She was forced to take an hour bus ride to school each day, in spite of the fact that there was a white school within walking distance. As she grew older her father solidified the idea that anything could be accomplished in life, but not without hard work to overcome racial stigma. This racial divide also prevented Tyus from playing with white girls, and since the nearest black family lived nearly a mile from her childhood home, she routinely played sports with her brothers and the other white boys in the neighborhood.
Upon finishing high school Tyus was the first of her family to ever go to college. Numerous encounters with subpar grades, attributed to poor study habits and lack of interest in her classes, nearly derailed Tyus's opportunity to continue training under coach Temple, and ultimately her chances to attend the 1964 Olympics. While at Tenneese State University Coach Temple served as a mentor to Tyus. Having brought the Tennessee State Tigerbelles from an underfunded upstart team in 1950, to a program that produced 34 national championship winners, 40 Olympic competitors, 23 Olympic medalist, and 8 National Track and Field Hall of Fame inductees over his 44 year coaching career, Edward Stanley Temple aimed to craft both athletes and model citizens.
Wyomia left her home in Georgia in December 1968 to move out to California following her boyfriend and her soon to be husband. After living in Los Angeles with her former college roommate from Panama and working as a substitute teacher, Wyomia married her first husband in 1969 and bounced through jobs before becoming a teacher in 1971. Within a year Wyomia left her job to stay home with her first child. Her first marriage ended in 1974, before remarrying Duane Tillman in 1978. This was the same year that her second child, a son was born.
Reflecting on her life and career in track, Tyus believes that sport helped her develop as a person, and made her grow. She also credits Coach Temple for her development and success, not just on the track, but also in the classroom and in her professional life. She notes that he highlighted the struggle that comes with being a black athlete, and that regardless of the success achieved they would have to work harder to get positive recognition.