Fastest man on Earth -- in 1960
By Barry Shell
The SFU Library has acquired a collection of material from Canadian sprinter Harry Jerome, who brought home Olympic bronze from Tokyo in 1964. He died in 1972 of a brain aneurysm.
"The stuff is all in boxes and bags," says Eden Marchand, the UBC Library Studies student fulfilling her professional experience in archival studies by organizing the SFU collection. "The most interesting thing so far has been to see these newspaper clippings and see all the struggles he had as a black athlete. He endured a lot of racist criticism, but he managed to get through it all."
Marchand expects to spend 120 hours sorting through the material, which includes documents from Harry Jerome's sister Valerie, also a track athlete.
Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1940, Jerome and his family moved to North Vancouver in the 1950s. He set the world record for 100 meters with a hand-timed run of 9.9 seconds at the Canadian trials for the 1960 Olympic games, but it was officially recorded as 10 seconds — again possibly because Jerome was black, according to newspaper clippings.
Marchand is a runner herself and ran the 200m sprint as a youth.
"Now I do half marathons — definitely not Olympic times," she says. "It sounds cheesy but I do think about Harry Jerome and use him as inspiration these days as I run. It made me want to start doing sprints again."
The collection will be available to researchers by September or October 2012, after she categorizes the countless newspaper clippings, letters, certificates, photographs, VHS tapes, cassettes and other memorabilia.
"When you get into it, you realize there's a lot more than just sports records,” says Marchand. “There's sociology. There are so many different layers."