Olympic medals replaced 43 years after theft

Vancouver –

More than 40 years after being stolen, a pair of historic Olympic gold medals are back in their proper place.

Sprinter Percy Williams wowed onlookers and inspired Canadians by winning both the 100 and 200 meters at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. In 1980, my cousin Brian Mead said,

That changed Friday when the Canadian Olympic Committee presented Williams’ extended family with newly minted medals.

“If people were to come here now, they wouldn’t see[the evidence of the theft]they wouldn’t even hear. They would look at his display, look at his achievements, look at his medals. And they’ll go home thinking he was great…a Canadian,” Meade said.

“A week ago when you came here, at the end of a great story, they emptied his case and disrespected him. And it was gone.”

Williams was an amazing athlete.

Born in 1908, he suffered from rheumatic fever as a boy and was advised by doctors to rest. He didn’t listen, instead drawing attention with his natural speed despite his small stature.

“Physically, Percy Williams looked a lot different than what you’d expect from today’s big, powerful, and muscular sprinters.” .”

Expectations were low for the Vancouver native when he lined up for the race in Amsterdam. However, after powering up the 100m heat and semi-finals, Williams ran down the course in his 10.8 seconds to win the gold medal in the final.

“(The victory) was so unexpected that the organizers rushed to find a Canadian flag for the medal ceremony,” Beck said.

A few days later, he also took first place in the 200m race, becoming only the third athlete ever to win both events at the same Olympics. Only nine male athletes, including Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, have accomplished this feat.

Williams set a new 100m world record of 10.3 seconds at the 1930 Canadian Athletics Championships. This record stood until 1936 when American Jesse Owens broke it.

The Canadian sprinter also won a gold medal at the First Games of the British Empire in 1930, but suffered what Beck called a “massive” muscle tear about 30 meters from the finish. bottom.

Though his legs were never the same, Williams continued to compete, qualifying for the 1932 Los Angeles Games and helping Canada finish fourth in the four-a-side relay.

His legacy extends beyond trucks.

Beck said George Stanley, who designed the modern Canadian flag, used the sprinter as inspiration and recalled a photo of Williams crossing the finish line in Amsterdam with a maple leaf on his chest.

Williams was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1949 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 before becoming an officer of Canada in 1979.

“This is a historical figure in Canadian sports history that many Canadians don’t know about, and I think it’s important for Canadians to know,” said Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Told.

After retiring from racing, Williams lived a mostly reclusive life, working as an insurance agent in Vancouver. In 1982 he took his own life.

Before his death, Williams donated his pile of memorabilia, including his medals, to the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A medal was stolen. Some medals were returned anonymously after about 15 years, but the gold medal was never recovered.

Peter Webster was the hall’s general manager in 1980 and discovered the theft.

“When it happened, it really upset me,” he said. “I remember walking from door to door. No, and I was kind of down about the whole thing.

After learning about Williams and his legacy years ago, Bryan and Tracy Meade asked the Canadian Olympic Committee to exchange their medals.

COC worked with the International Olympic Committee to find the original molds and specifications and was able to recreate the prizes.

The process finally came to an end on Friday when Smith handed Brian and Tracy Meade a small brown box containing the exact same medals Williams received in 1928. “Olympian Amsterdam 1928”

“I’m the complete opposite of an Olympian, so touching a gold medal is unbelievable,” Brian Mead said with a smile.

Tracy Mead said it was a special moment to present the award to Williams’ display in the hall.

“I think it’s pride,” she said, her voice tearing and tears in her eyes. “We are proud of his achievements and proud of him that he was able to bring back his medal.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 24, 2023.

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