West News Wire: Bob Richards, a two-time gold medallist in the pole vault at the Olympics who later was ordained as a preacher, passed away on Sunday. He was 97.
USA Track and Field has acknowledged his passing. In a statement on social media, his son Brandon stated that his father “died in his sleep peacefully surrounded by loved ones.”
Richards participated in the pole vault at the Olympics in 1948, 1952, and 1956. On his first Olympic appearance, he took home a bronze medal; later, he earned back-to-back gold medals. The “Vaulting Vicar,” a versatile athlete, also took part in the 1956 Olympic Decathlon.
Richards, who was born in Champaign, Illinois, went on to win six NCAA championships at the University of Illinois. The school said in a release he held the ranking as the No. 1 pole vaulter for eight consecutive years.
He was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 after a career that included winning at the Millrose Games 11 straight times. He also appeared on a box of Wheaties cereal.
His sons followed in his pole-vaulting footsteps. In his Facebook post, Brandon Richards said his father began reading the Bible and preaching as a way to overcome his stuttering. He became a pastor who went all around to give lectures, leading to a career as a motivational speaking.
Wrote Brandon Richards of his dad: “We lost a national treasure.” He added that his father “always motivated us kids the same way to be the best we could be. He was the greatest dad I could ever ask for and I will miss him dearly.”