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Don Bragg
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    (May 15, 1935-February 16, 2019)
    Born in Penns Grove, New Jersey
    Pole vaulter
    Won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics (1960)
    Held the world record (July 2, 1960-May 20, 1961)
    At 197 pounds, he was at about the maximum weight possible for a pole vaulter of the era: if he put on extra pounds, the aluminum poles in use would crumple under the weight.
    While boarding a train in Philadelphia while carrying his pole, it hit a live wire and almost electrocuted him.
    He retired when fiberglass poles became standard equipment: ‘I couldn’t see learning how to vault all over again with the new poles just to win another medal.’
    He wanted to play Tarzan in the movies so badly that after receiving his gold medal, he let loose with a Tarzan yell from the podium.
    He was cast in the lead in ‘Tarzan and the Jewels of Opir,’ but the film was never completed, as a court order shut down production because of copyright infringement (1964).
    His 1960-61 world record was the last one set using a metal pole.
    He operated a camp in the Pine Barrens for inner city kids; Muhammad Ali, who he had befriended when they were both gold medalists at the 1960 Olympics, would sometimes make guest appearances.
    He worked for the New Jersey governor’s office as a youth recreation advisor.
    Johnny Weissmuller said he would have been perfect as Tarzan.
    He was still able to deliver a Tarzan yell when he gave a speech in Rome commemorating the 50th anniversary of their Olympic Games.

Credit: C. Fishel

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