US pole vaulter Don Bragg in action at the 1960 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
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1960 Olympic pole vault champion Don Bragg dies

The IAAF is deeply saddened to hear that 1960 Olympic pole vault champion Don Bragg died on Saturday (16) at the age of 83.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Bragg was still a teenager when he established himself among the world’s elite. He vaulted 4.42m indoors in 1954 at the age of 18, ending the year as the sixth-best vaulter in the world.

One of the last leading pole vaulters to use a metal pole, Bragg would often perform better indoors than outdoors. He set a world indoor record of 4.81m in 1959, adding two centimetres to the long-standing record that had been set 16 years earlier by pole vault legend Cornelius Warmerdam.

That mark remained the best of Bragg’s career, but he went on to set an outdoor world record of 4.80m to win the 1960 US Trials, making him the favourite for the Olympic Games in Rome later that year.

He lived up to expectations in the Italian capital and at the end of a competition that lasted seven hours, Bragg won gold with an Olympic record of 4.70m.

Standing 1.90m (6ft 3in) tall, Bragg earned the nickname ‘Tarzan’ and he would often celebrate his victories with a Tarzan yell from the podium.

Long before the discipline became a standard event for women, Bragg’s younger sister Diane learned how to vault and in 1952 cleared 2.59m, which stood as an unofficial world best for 17 years.

He is survived by his wife Theresa and four children.