percy williams olympic gold medal 1928
                   

PERCY WILLIAMS

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LAND SPEED RECORD

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Samuel Hawley is a writer of narrative nonfiction and fiction. His books are highly eclectic. He has written about 16th-century East Asian history, 19th-century Korean-American relations, Olympic sprinting and land speed racing and a circus elephant named Topsy who was electrocuted in 1903. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.

AN INTERVIEW WITH PERCY WILLIAMS, JUNE 1931


Here is the transcript of an interview sportswriter Maxwell Stiles conducted with Percy Williams and Frank Wykoff in June 1931, a few days before they faced each other in a 100-metre showdown at LA Colliseum (which Percy lost). The interview was published at the time in an LA newspaper and was later included in a compilation of Stiles' work published by Track and Field News in 1959 entitled Back Track: Great Moments in Track and Field, available on-line here.


“QUIZ PROGRAM”

 

Olympic champion Percy Williams of Vancouver, B. C., came to Los Angeles in June, 1931, to face Frank Wykoff, Emmett Toppino and Cy Leland in the SPAAU meet. Williams, obviously far off his 1928 form, finished fourth with Wykoff winning in 9.5s., Toppino second and Leland third. A few days before this race I secured the following interview.

 

Question: How old are you and how much do you weigh?

Percy: I am 23 and weighed 126, stripped, two weeks ago at Seattle.

Frank: I am 21 and weigh 147.

Q: Are you a driving or a striding runner when under the pressure of severe competition?

Percy: Stride the 220 and drive at the finish. I am a driving runner in the 100. Frank: I reach out, pull and stride. I do not drive.

Q: What do you consider the strongest part of your race --- start, pickup, stride or finish?

Percy: At Amsterdam it seemingly was my finish. Last year I improved my start and was running fastest of my career.

Frank: My second, third, fourth, and fifth strides, which carry me to about the 20-yard mark.

Q: Do you believe in Paddock's flying leap?

Percy: That's hard to say. Sometimes I leap and sometimes I do not. I usually throw my arms back and my chest forward. Paddock reaches out with his arms.

Frank: No.

Q: Do you turn your shoulder into the tape?

Percy: I do not.

Frank: Yes, I turn my left shoulder into the tape.

Q: What distance do you consider your best race ---100 yards, 100 meters or 220 yards?

Percy: The 100 meters.

Frank: The 100-yard dash, because of my 9-2/5s. record and my fast start.

Q: Do you prefer a soft or hard track, and why?

Percy: There have been a lot of dirty cracks taken at me down here by certain people, saying that I can run only on a soft track. I beat every great American runner in the East indoors and the board tracks were not made of sawdust.

Frank: I like a hard track the best because of my pickup. A soft track gives way and I can't get the same traction I get on firm footing. Runners used to soft tracks could run faster on hard tracks, but runners used to hard tracks have a difficult time adjusting to a soft track.

Q: What one outstanding reason would you give explaining why the name of Williams was recorded first and that of Wykoff fourth in the Olympic 100 meters?

Percy: The answers I have read are that the American runner had too many races at Boston and had to sail on a boat, while I was very lucky. My own idea is that at the time I was the fastest runner and got the breaks.

Frank: Williams was the best man in the race. He was in top form, too. I don't think I could have beaten him, but I might have done better than fourth had I been in better condition.

Q: Whom do you consider the greatest sprinter you have ever met?

Percy: Eddie Tolan, because I have never seen a man run as fast as he did in beating me at Vancouver, last summer.

Frank: George Simpson and Williams.

Q: Who is best in the world today?

Percy: Wykoff, because he has since beaten Tolan.

Frank: Tolan.

Q: Who do you think was best of all time?

Percy: I do not know.

Frank: Paddock.

Q: What was the toughest race you ever ran?

Percy: Qualifying for the Olympic 200 meters semi-final when I met Borah and Koernig and one of us had to go out. I was third with a yard to go, but finally beat Borah.

Frank: The IC4A race this year, when Tolan was ahead of me at 80 yards.

Q: What victory have you your biggest thrill?

Percy: Beating Borah in the race I have named.

Frank: Beating Paddock here on June 16, 1928.

Q: What was your greatest disappointment?

Percy: Pulling a muscle last summer at Hamilton while leading a 100-yard race which I think would have been 9 2/5 seconds. I had run 10.3 for 100 meters the week before. I pulled a muscle at 55 yards, hobbled in lame, but was timed in 9.9.

Frank: Failing to win at Amsterdam.



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