One of the greatest all-around athletes in track and field history, Robert "Bob" Mathias arrived on the world track and field scene in spectacular fashion, winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1948 Olympic Games while still only 17 years old. That made him the youngest ever winner of an Olympic track and field event and also earned him the 1948 Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete.
Already a member of the football, basketball and track team at Tulare High School in California, Mathias took up the decathlon at the track coach's urging, though he had never seen a javelin, no less thrown one. He learned quickly. Despite his inexperience, he qualified for the Olympic team, then won the gold medal in London.
Upon his return to the small farming community of Tulare, California, Mathias was a full-fledged hero. While at Stanford University, Mathias set the first of his three world decathlon records in 1950. He capped his brilliant career by repeating as Olympic champion in 1952, winning by the largest margin in Olympic history and setting another world record. His point total of 7731 was 599 more than that of second-place finisher Milt Campbell of the U.S. (who won the event four years later).
Never defeated in the decathlon, Mathias was a four-time national champion in the ten-event ordeal. Also a star fullback for the Stanford football team, he played in the 1952 Rose Bowl, making him the only person ever to compete in that event and an Olympics in the same year. After his competitive days, he was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1967 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1983 he was director of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.
1948 Olympics: Decathlon (1st)
1952 Olympics: Decathlon - 7731 pts. (1st)
high school: Tulare (Tulare, California)
undergraduate: Stanford (Palo Alto, California), 1953