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Locals swell with pride in all corners of the city as Percy Williams, a Vancouver sprinter, wins two gold medals at the Amsterdam Olympics, and earns himself the title of the “world’s fastest human”.
“Percy Williams, the Vancouver sprinter who has so decisively ‘cleaned up’ at the Amersterdam Olympiad, will probably need an extra trunk to bring back the two laurel wreaths with which he is to be crowned,” reports the Vancouver Sun, “And the host of congratulatory messages that have been sent him from the ends of the earth.”
Williams, whose medals are for placing first in both the 100-metre and 200-metre dash, will receive congratulations from acting mayor Frank Woodside, several provincial premiers, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King himself. In addition, he will be courted by a number of prestigious American universities, and receive all manner of prizes, including a congratulatory pistol. Over the next two years, Williams will go on to win a gold medal at the inaugural British Empire Games, set a world record for speed in 1930, and would win 19 of the 21 track meets he’d attend (despite the best efforts of the American organizers), and, in 1975, would be declared Canada’s all-time greatest Olympic Athelete by the Associated Press.
However, an injury in 1930 would end his career, and, after years of selling insurance, and living in constant arthritic pain, Williams would choose to take his own life, shooting himself with the Olympic congratulatory pistol in his mother’s Vancouver home in 1982.
IMAGE: Percy Williams, running the 100m final at the Amsterdam Olympics. Image Courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.