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Bob RICHARDS

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The Vaulting Vicar

The Reverend Bob Richards was a theology professor in California when he qualified for the U.S. Olympic team as a pole vaulter in 1952.

The duel for the gold medal was waged between Richards and fellow American Don Laz. They both cleared 4.50m with their second attempt and then missed twice at 4.55m. But Richards went over on his third try and won.

The 1952 Olympics in Helsinki were the first at which athletes from the U.S.S.R. competed, and there was concern that Cold War tensions would mar the Games. Richards countered this mood by leading an unofficial delegation of American athletes to visit the Soviet athletes.

Richards returned to the Olympics in 1956. The pole vault final was held in the midst of gusty winds. Richards won by clearing 4.56m on his second attempt. He is the only person to win the pole vault twice. In addition, because he also won a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games in 1948, Richards is the only vaulter to earn three medals. Bob Richards also holds a special place in American cultural history because he was the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties cereal.

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