Canadian Olympic hero Percy Williams’ missing medals restored to the BC Sports Hall of Fame

Canadian Olympic hero Percy Williams’ missing medals restored to the BC Sports Hall of Fame

On Feb. 24, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored Canadian legend Percy Williams’ two gold medals from the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games. The medals were stolen in 1980 while on display at the BC Sports Hall of Fame and have never been recovered.

At the request of Williams’ family and given the rare circumstances around the theft of Williams’ medals, the COC worked with the IOC to recreate his medals based on the original specifications from the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games. The family in turn has donated the newly minted medals to the BC Sports Hall of Fame, where they can be viewed and appreciated by all, in a new historic display honouring Williams’ legacy.

Williams’ exceptional athletic journey defied the odds on numerous occasions. At 15, he was told to refrain from participating in all sports after succumbing to acute rheumatic fever. Never one to take no for an answer, he started running at age 16 because it was a mandatory requirement for his high school physical education program. To participate in the 1928 Canadian Olympic trials in Hamilton, Ontario, Williams worked long hours as a waiter to raise funds to pay for his trip. It was worth it. Williams qualified, and at those Games he twice matched the 100m Olympic record en route to winning gold. His victory was such a surprise that Olympic officials didn’t have a Canadian flag or national anthem for the medal ceremony, causing a delay. A couple days later, Williams won the 200m final by a metre, becoming the third sprinter in history at the time to achieve the Olympic sprint double.

“We are very happy to have played a small part in renewing Percy’s story. He was a great Canadian athlete and now his accomplishments will be back on display,” says Tracey Mead, a member of Williams extended family. “We felt compelled to put his recognition back in place not only because of our family connection but also so people don’t forget this great man.”

“Without a doubt, Percy Williams is one of the most underappreciated Canadian Olympic athletes of all time,” says BC Sports Hall of Fame Curator Jason Beck. “The recreation of Percy’s Amsterdam 1928 Olympic gold medals returns the spotlight within the BC Sports Hall of Fame to one of the more incredible underdog stories in the history of BC sport.”

Following Williams’ improbable double gold, he returned to Vancouver to a hero’s welcome, being greeted by 25,000 fans at the train station and a school holiday was declared. In 1930, he set a 100m world record which stood until Jesse Owens broke it in 1936. In 1972, a Canadian Press poll declared Williams Canada’s all-time greatest Olympic athlete and in 1979 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“This is a very special moment and we are thrilled to be able to again celebrate Percy Williams’ historic achievements and remarkable legacy for Canadian sport,” said COC President and four-time Olympian, Tricia Smith. “Restoring these Olympic medals to the BC Sports Hall of Fame shines a light on the incredible story of Percy’s outstanding sprinting career, a story which will continue to inspire British Columbians and Canadians alike.”

About the BC Sports Hall of Fame

The BC Sports Hall of Fame celebrates extraordinary achievement in B.C. sport history and inspires future generations to make their dreams come true.  As a non-profit charitable organization, the Hall curates an astounding collection of 27,000 heritage artifacts and 100,000 archival documents representing 150-years of sport history in British Columbia. Through Hero in You Youth Education Programs, the BC Sports Hall of Fame reaches over 6,500 young learners each year across the province, advancing a mission of building outstanding community legacies by honouring the past and inspiring the future.

For more information, please visit bcsportshall.com or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @bcsportshall

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