Saturday, February 3, 2018

V 8 N. 6 Cliff Bourland, USA's oldest gold medalist R.I.P

                                                    Cliff Bourland  R.I.P.

Thanks from Darryl Taylor who forwarded this information about Cliff Bourland's passing.   Information was from the Orange County Register

Cliff in a preliminary heat in London, probably the semis.  He won his three heats prior to the finals.

Olympic sprinter Cliff Bourland, America's oldest living gold medalist has died. He was 97. Cliff died Thursday from complications from pneumonia in Santa Monica as reported by USC.

Bourland won gold at the 1948 London Games while running the second leg of the U.S. 1600 meter relay. He also finished fifth in the 200 meters. He won the NCAA 440 championship in 1942 and '43 while attending USC. He was a three-time letterman with the Trojans winning the NCAA team title each year under Coach Dean Cromwell. Bourland was team captain of the 1943 team which won the NCAA team title with just four athletes.

He was third in the 100 and second in the 220 in 1941 and finished third in the 200 the next two years.  His 46 points scored at the NCAAs set a school record and remains the fourth-most ever.

Bourland was the Los Angeles City 440 champion in 1938 while attending Venice High School. He was a capatin in the Navy during WWII. After his sprinting career was over he worked in the shoe, insurance and mortgage banking industries.

Time marches on and takes with it our heroes of the past. Always sad news.

Another article on Cliff from 2012 follows:

from the Brentwood News, August 15, 2012

By: Luci E. Araníbar
This article is being published by the Brentwood News on August 15, 2012
Few years ago I met 1948 Olympic gold medalist Clifford Bourland.  He is tall, thin, elegant, charming and with a great intelligent sense of humor.   It was a football night.  His wife Jane, his two children, Cliff and Alex, and a couple of friends were there to enjoy a delicious dinner in their cozy Brentwood home.
Mr. B., as we like to call him, is now 91 years old; few years have passed since then, few small injuries in the later years, but he still plays golf and is always ready for a good laugh.
Clifford Bourland (Cliff) was born in 1921 in Venice, California. He attended Venice High School and in his senior year he didn’t know he had a gift, he just knew he liked to play tennis.
Sometimes life plays some tricks though.  One day the school coach, Berry Europe, asked Cliff Bourland to join the athletic team.  Young, honest and humble, he was not convinced of the skill the coach would see in him.  To his own surprise, tall, thin, long-legged Cliff Bourland won his first competition to be the best runner of the school.  Soon after, he competed against all Los Angeles schools, winning again. And from then on many more medals would be handed to him.
His senior year was coming to an end and as many students, the future seemed uncertain, although USC was his dream school.  Maybe fate, maybe coincidence, after Cliff Bourland won a competition, Edward Leahy, a young athlete approached him to know if he would like to go to USC. “Well, nobody offered me” said Cliff Bourland.
His new friend Edward, who would become a friend for life, introduced him to the USC coach and team.  Cliff Bourland demonstrated his running skills and became part of the track and field team participating in the 200 m.  In 1942 and 1943 he would win the AAU championships in 400 m. and the NCAA championships in 440 yards.
All the preparation and discipline prepared to go to the 1944 Olympic Games were vanished due to the WWII.  It was then and until the war ended, that Cliff Bourland went to serve in the Navy as Captain of a landing craft tank.
Once the war was over times were difficult for everyone.  On 1947 his decision to make a return to study at USC would make a great turn in his life.  Then 26 years old, not as young an athlete, thought of running as a matter of “keeping myself in shape.”
The head coach back then was Dean Cromwell (1879-1962) he was one of the greatest coaches in the U.S.  His nickname was “Maker of Champions.”  Cromwell coached the USC track team from 1909 until 1948 making USC a nine-time winner in a row.
One more time, Cliff Bourland’s long time friend Edward and his Coach Cromwell saw a potential athlete in him, but this time for the Olympics.  “I was not in as great shape as in 1944, but I qualified third for the Olympics” he explains.
It was 1948, twelve years has passed since the last Olympic game. Two Olympic Games were canceled. In 1940 Japan canceled due to the war and four years later, with the struggles of WWII, the games were cancelled again, leaving behind many athletes who wouldn’t have a next opportunity to compete.
Life was hard for everyone, and more so for all these young athletes who’s dreams of glory faded in between.
July 1948 as part of the Olympic Team, Cliff Bourland embarks on the USS America ship that would take him along with all the U.S. Olympic team to London.  Coach Cromwell, the “Maker of Champions,” was the designated head coach of the U.S. Olympic team that year.
The trip lasted two weeks, time was precious and the team would need to train just by running around the deck. “They were different times”, said shyly Cliff Bourland,
The arrival in London was an experience itself.  London was in the process of recovering from the years of destruction caused by WWII.  Food was limited and the athletes were not an exception. A bakery from Los Angeles, Helms Bakery, would ship bread everyday to the team.
The lack of food and other limitations would not take away the Olympic Games main purpose:  bring all countries together. “Being there was a special feeling.” “Everybody is happy.” Cliff Bourland describes it with a big pleasant smile.
During the Olympic preliminaries, Cliff Bourland qualified for the 200 m.  At the day of the competition, the Jamaican team used all the starting blocks brought by the U.S. team, leaving Cliff Bourland with no choice than to dig with his hand a hole to support his foot; his start was delayed and the result, a fourth place.
Coach Cromwell seeing Cliff Bourland’s frustration due to the previous incident decides to place him in the next 4 x 400 relays. He was going to compete against the best relay team: the Jamaicans.  The challenge was there and he was more than ready for that.
Cliff Bourland was the second leg, his opponent and he were even at the start but not for too long, he beat his Jamaican opponent by 15 yards. He made a record running 400 m. in 47.3 seconds, which granted the relay team the gold medal.
So you were the best in the team, I asked.  He responded humbly “That day I was. Whitfield was the fastest, but I guess that day I was.”
When asked how life was after the Olympic Games and because of that, he said, “It was nice to be there.  Life’s been good.  It’s nice to have people acknowledge you.   It’s a proud moment when you hear the Star Spangled Banner and when you meet friends you will never forget.”

With emotion he said:  “I hope they [the 2012 U.S. Olympic team] enjoy the Olympic Games as much as I did.  Everything is a plus factor, everything is positive.  There’s nothing bad about it.  We didn’t have the attention that they have today, but still it’s a thrill.  [It was] a wonderful thing in my life.  I met a lot of people, good solid people, friendly people.  It’s being a good thing.  Everything is good.”

My colleague Roy Mason recently sent the following in an email.  At the time he did not know of Cliff Bourland's passing, but what he says makes sense in this context.

 This isn't like baseball where an 80 year old Jim Davenport or Davey Concepcion can be introduced to an admiring crowd.  Jim and Davey will forever be known for their athletic achievements.  Track guys disappear once the career is over.  George Mattos, two time Olympian, wasn't known as a pole vaulter.  He was Mr. Mattos, the music teacher at Weed HS in Oregon.  Same thing for swimming.  My optometrist for 20 years, Mac Brown, was NCAA diving champ at SC in '54 and '55.  Nice man, nothing more.  Had no idea that he had been an athlete.  Once I learned this I was ready to chat him up on the next appointment, but he died.

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