Charley Paddock

While attending the University of Southern California, Charley Paddock ran track and field for the Trojans until graduating in 1922. From 1918-1919 during World War I, he served in the United States Field Artillery. Paddock became a lieutenant in the army and upon his homecoming he became the most famous track athlete of the 1920s.With a double victory in the 100m and 200m dash at the Inter-Allied Games in 1919, Paddock attained international recognition. Additionally he was part of a 4x200m relay team that finished with the gold medal at the Inter-Allied Games. After setting numerous world records he was the first to earn the nickname “The fastest man alive.” He was known for his springing stride, high knee action and the famous “jump finish.” Paddock regularly broke records at rarely challenged distances. He won five AAU titles and officially matched the world 100 yard record of 9.6 five times. Early in 1921 he ran 10.4 for 100 meters to equal the world record, but his finest performance came two months later when he clocked 10.2 for 110 yards (100.58 m).

man with upraised hands
Paddock wins the 100m at the 1920 Olympic Games. Image:

Following the Inter-Allied Games, Charley Paddock competed in the 1920 Olympic games in Antwerp, Belgium and the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, France. In Belgium, Paddock won gold in three events; 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay. In France, Paddock finished fifth in the 100m dash and won silver in the 200m dash.

After the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, Paddock proposed his ultimate dream to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee. Paddock aspired to physically run around the world and spread his passion for running. In the spring of 1925, Paddock set off from San Francisco on his journey around the globe. Destinations included Australia, China, Egypt, Europe, Japan, Mexico, and some Scandinavian countries as well. Throughout the various countries, Paddock staged exhibitions, spoke to groups about speed-running and held training clinics. On his journey, Paddock survived illness, injuries, and even a plane crash where he was trapped for twenty hours until being rescued by fishermen. Paddock would go on to write, “My main intent was to increase interest in Olympic foot racing in places only vaguely informed about international competition.”

In 1920, while he remained active in athletics, he entered the newspaper business. He eventually served upper management roles for the Pasadena Star-News, the Pasadena Post, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Those three newspapers were owned by his father in law, Charles H. Prisk. After failing to medal in the 1928 Olympic games in Amsterdam, Charley ultimately retired from running in 1929. After accomplishing so much in only 43 years, while serving as a decorated Marine captain in World War II Charley Paddock was unfortunately killed in a plane crash with Major General William Upshur near Sitka, Alaska.



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