Don Bragg

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Don Bragg
Don Bragg 1960.jpg
Don Bragg in 1960
Personal information
Born(1935-05-15)May 15, 1935
Penns Grove, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedFebruary 16, 2019(2019-02-16) (aged 83)
Northern California, U.S.
Height1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Weight89 kg (196 lb)
SportPole vaulting
ClubVillanova Wildcats

Donald George Bragg (May 15, 1935 February 16, 2019) was an American athlete who competed mainly in the pole vault and won a gold medal in that event at the 1960 Summer Olympics. [1]

Pole vault track and field event

Pole vaulting is a track and field event in which a person uses a long flexible pole as an aid to jump over a bar. Pole jumping competitions were known to the ancient Greeks, Cretans and Celts. It has been a full medal event at the Olympic Games since 1896 for men and since 2000 for women.

1960 Summer Olympics Games of the XVII Olympiad, celebrated in Rome in 1960

The 1960 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held from August 25 to September 11, 1960, in Rome, Italy. The city of Rome had previously been awarded the administration of the 1908 Summer Olympics, but following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906, Rome had no choice but to decline and pass the honour to London.



Bragg grew up in Penns Grove, New Jersey, where he attended Penns Grove High School. [2]

Penns Grove, New Jersey Borough in New Jersey, United States

Penns Grove is a borough in Salem County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 5,147, reflecting an increase of 261 (+5.3%) from the 4,886 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 342 (-6.5%) from the 5,228 counted in the 1990 Census.

Penns Grove High School

Penns Grove High School is a four-year comprehensive public high school that serves students in ninth through twelfth grades from Carneys Point Township and Penns Grove in Salem County, New Jersey, United States, operating as part of the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District. A majority of students in grades 9-12 from Oldmans Township, New Jersey attend the district's high school as part of a sending/receiving relationship with the Oldmans Township School District, with the balance attending Woodstown High School in the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District. The school is located in Carneys Point Township.

Bragg was the last of the great pole vaulters to use an aluminum pole. From 1954 until 1960, he was always world ranked and capped a championship career in 1960 by setting a world record of 15' 9¼" (4.80 m) at the Olympic Trials and winning an Olympic gold medal with a vault of 15' 5" (4.70 m). He set a world indoor record of 15' 9½" (4.81 m) at Philadelphia in 1959 and, like Hall of Famer Cornelius Warmerdam, vaulted better indoors than outdoors.

World record

A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill or sport. The book Guinness World Records collates and publishes notable records of all types, from first and best to worst human achievements, to extremes in the natural world and beyond.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Cornelius Warmerdam American Pole Vaulter, coach

Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam was an American pole vaulter who held the world record between 1940 and 1957. He missed the Olympics due to World War II, and retired from senior competitions in 1944, though he continued to vault into his sixties. In 1974 he inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame.

At 6' 3" and 197 pounds, Bragg was one of the largest vaulters in history. He had to stay on a 1,200 calories (5,000 kJ) diet to stay at that weight. Any more and the aluminum alloy poles would crumple under the strain. [3] The aluminum pole had another disadvantage: while taking it aboard a train in Philadelphia, Bragg hit an electrical line and nearly electrocuted himself. [4]

While at Villanova University, he won the NCAA pole vault championship in 1955 and was the IC4A champion, both indoors and outdoors, from 1955 to 1957. He also tied for the AAU indoor championship. After graduating in 1957, Bragg again tied for the AAU indoor championship in 1958, then won the event from 1959 through 1961. He was also the AAU outdoor champion in 1959. [1]

Villanova University Catholic university near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Villanova University is a private research university in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. Named after Saint Thomas of Villanova, the school is the oldest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Nicknamed "Tarzan" because of his size and strength, Bragg's goal was to play that role in the movies. Few have so actively pursued a role. He toured Europe and Africa for the U.S. State Department as a goodwill ambassador, climbing trees and swinging from vines. [2] He met Johnny Weissmüller, who agreed that Bragg would be perfect as Tarzan. When he won the gold at the 1960 Olympics he did the infamous Tarzan yell from the podium, shocking the crowd. He was offered the role twice, but was injured and missed both opportunities. His dream went unfulfilled.

Tarzan fictional character from Edgar Rice Burroughss Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan is a fictional character, an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungle by the Mangani great apes; he later experiences civilization only to reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes, and subsequently in 25 sequels, several authorized books by other authors, and innumerable works in other media, both authorized and unauthorized. The film version of Tarzan as the noble savage, as acted by Johnny Weissmuller, does not reflect the original character in the novels, who is gracious and highly sophisticated.

He later became athletic director at Stockton State College (N.J.), the owner of a summer camp, and the author of A Chance to Dare: The Don Bragg Story. [1] His time running a summer camp is chronicled in Kamp Olympik by Don and Theresa Bragg as told to Patricia Doherty.

In August 2010, Bragg made a speech in Rome at a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1960 Summer Olympics. He concluded this speech with his Tarzan yell. [5]

His younger sister Diane Bragg also learned how to pole vault by watching her brother. In 1952, long before women were pole vaulting competitively, Diane set the women's world record that stood for over 25 years. [6]

Bragg died at his home in Northern California of dementia on February 16, 2019, aged 83. [7]




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  1. 1 2 3 Don Bragg.
  2. 1 2 "The Twig Was Bent", Time (magazine) , April 20, 1959. Accessed December 16, 2008.
  3. Don Bragg and Patricia Doherty (2003) A Chance to Dare: The Don Bragg Story, Virtual Bookworm, p. 77, ISBN   1589393422.
  4. Bill Livingston, Above and Beyond Part Four, The Plain Dealer
  5. "Golden Reunion for Don Bragg in Rome" [ permanent dead link ], Clayton Pioneer, July 23, 2012. Accessed July 28, 2012.
  7. "Don Bragg, former Olympic hero who starred at Penns Grove and Villanova, dies at 83". Philly Inquirer. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  8. "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Page 555. Archived from the original (pdf) on August 6, 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
Preceded by
Flag of the United States.svg Robert Gutowski
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
July 2, 1960 May 20, 1961
Succeeded by
Flag of the United States.svg George Davies