INDIANAPOLIS -- Bob Richards, a two-time Olympic pole vault gold medalist who also became an ordained minister, died Sunday. He was 97.
USA Track and Field confirmed his death. His son, Brandon, wrote in a social media post that his father “passed in his sleep peacefully surrounded by loved ones.”
Richards competed at the 1948, ’52 and ’56 Olympics in the pole vault. He won a bronze medal in his first Olympic go-around, followed by back-to-back gold medals. The versatile athlete known as the “Vaulting Vicar” also competed in the Olympic decathlon in 1956.
From Champaign, Illinois, Richards went on to become a six-time NCAA champion at the University of Illinois. The school said in a release he held the ranking as the No. 1 pole vaulter for eight consecutive years.
He was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 after a career that included winning at the Millrose Games 11 straight times. He also appeared on a box of Wheaties cereal.
His sons followed in his pole-vaulting footsteps. In his Facebook post, Brandon Richards said his father began reading the Bible and preaching as a way to overcome his stuttering. He became a pastor who went all around to give lectures, leading to a career as a motivational speaking.
Wrote Brandon Richards of his dad: “We lost a national treasure.” He added that his father “always motivated us kids the same way to be the best we could be. He was the greatest dad I could ever ask for and I will miss him dearly.”
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