Segments in this Video

Start of Running Career (04:54)


Canadian track legend Harry Winston Jerome was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He and his sister, Valerie, were the only black students at their Vancouver high school before the arrival of Paul Winn. Jerome and Winn competed with the Optimist Striders Track Club.

Rising Star (05:45)

Jerome broke Percy Williams’s record for the 220-yard dash at the Vancouver District Track Meet in 1959. He broke the world record for the 100-meter dash the following year during Olympic trials in Saskatoon, but judges rounded his time up to 10 seconds, officially giving him a tie.

Falling Short in Rome (06:11)

Distractions plagued Jerome at the 1960 Olympics, and he was badly injured during the 100-meter dash. The Canadian media stoked unrealistic expectations regarding his performance.

Learning to Defend Himself (04:25)

Jerome's father worked as a railroad porter, and he was transferred to Vancouver. His neighbors there petitioned to get the biracial family to move out of the neighborhood. Racism was often practiced more covertly in Canada than in the United States.

College Days (07:50)

Jerome was accepted to the University of Oregon where he was coached by Bill Bowerman. He spearheaded a fundraising effort for a business idea that led to the development of Nike. He met his wife, Wendy, and many were hostile to the couple’s interracial relationship.

NCAA Superstar (04:41)

Jerome set several records during the course of his college career. His main rivals were sprinters Bob Hayes and Edwin Roberts who were also his friends. Jerome and Wendy were married in June 1962.

Disappointment in Perth, Australia (06:44)

Jerome was one of Canada's only superstar athletes in the early 1960s, leading to intense pressure to succeed. He fell ill and suffered a debilitating injury with little support from medical staff at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Rock Bottom (04:21)

There were rumors that Jerome had abandoned his team in Perth. He required immediate surgery on a rupture quadriceps tendon. Many speculated that his sprinting career was over.

Comeback Trail (06:06)

Debbie Jerome-Smith ran track from a very young age. Her father insisted running would do nothing for her, and he encouraged her to try other sports. Jerome was determined to run again, and he worked diligently to rehabilitate his injured leg.

Huge Comeback, "Nogero" (02:40)

Jerome returned to the track and broke a world record at a meet in Portland. He was the first sprinter to hold the record for the 100-meter and 100-yard dash at the same time. He wore his Oregon t-shirt backwards as a protest.

Success in Tokyo (03:15)

Jerome’s main competition at the 1964 Olympics was Hayes. He won a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash and finished fourth in the 200 meters. Through perseverance, he had rehabilitated his image and proven his critics wrong.

Dysfunctional Family (03:24)

Jerome’s marriage suffered as he enjoyed the temptations of fame, and the couple got a divorce. Jerome taught physical education and continued to train and set a new high mark for the 100-yard dash.

Historic Protest (07:17)

Jerome finally earned a gold medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica and won the 100-yard dash at the Pan Am Games the following year. He also appeared at the 1968 Summer Olympics and was asked about the protest staged by black athletes on the American team.

Jerome's Retirement and Death (05:23)

Jerome did not often take a public stance on issues of racial justice. He retired and received accolades that belied the treatment of his early career. He mourned the loss of a childhood hero. He was prone to seizures and died at 42.

Jerome's Legacy (07:33)

Jerome’s official cause of death was asphyxiation, but his family had a history of epilepsy. He was buried quickly on his sister’s orders, with no friends or family present. A prestigious black achievement award and an annual track classic bear the Olympian's name.

Credits: Mighty Jerome (03:03)

Credits: Mighty Jerome

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Mighty Jerome

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In 1959, at just nineteen years of age, Harry Jerome was Canada’s most promising track and field star and on his way to the Olympics in Rome. By 1962, after suffering a gruesome leg injury, there was every reason to think that his racing days were over. But Jerome was not just a champion on the track; he was doubly determined off it. And so began his climb to what his coach, Bill Bowerman, called “the greatest comeback in track and field history.” Through years of unparalleled political turbulence, racial conflict, and personal challenges, Harry Jerome kept his head down and ran, displaying strength of character and willful perseverance every bit as impressive as his record-setting athleticism. Filmmaker Charles Officer uses monochrome imagery, impassioned interviews, and archival footage to tell the runner’s triumphant story; inspired by the book Running Uphill, The Fast, Short Life of Canadian Champion Harry Jerome by Fil Fraser.

Length: 84 minutes

Item#: BVL190482

Copyright date: ©2010

Closed Captioned

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