1940s1950sHighlightsHistoryL E StoriesOlympic DecathlonOlympic Medal CeremoniesOlympic Track & FieldOlympicsSpecials

Olympics – Bob Mathias – Track n Field Men’s Decathlon – L E’s Stories Special – “Considered The World’s Greatest Athlete At Age 17 And Again At 21” – The Bob Mathias Story

Bob Mathias (November 17, 1930 – September 2, 2006) was an American decathlete….who was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the event…..a United States Marine Corps officer…..Hollywood actor…. and United States Congressman representing the state of California.  Mathias was born in Tulare, California….where he attended Tulare Union High School….when he was a classmate and long time friend of Sim Iness….who was the 1952 Olympic discus gold medalist.  While at Tulare Union in early 1948, Mathias took up the decathlon at the suggestion of his track coach, Virgil Jackson….then during the summer following his high school graduation at age 17….that’s when he qualified for the United States Olympic team for the 1948 Summer Olympics held in London, England.                                                                        

Olympics – 1948 + 1952 – London & Helsinki Games – Special Film – “Fundamentals of Track and Field” – Staring Bob Mathias

In the Olympics, Mathias’s naïveté about the decathlon was exposed.  He was unaware of the rules in the shot put and nearly fouled out of the event….plus, he almost failed in the high jump….but was able to recover…..as Mathias overcame his difficulties….and with a superior pole vault and javelin scores was able to push past Ignace Heinrich to win the Olympic gold medal…..when at age 17, he became the youngest gold medalist in a track and field event.  Mathias continued to fare well in decathlons in the four years between the London games and the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki…..albeit in 1948, Mathias won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete….but because his scholastic record in high school did not match his athletic achievement….that’s when he spent a year at The Kiski School,  a well-respected all-boys boarding school in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania.  He then entered Stanford University in 1949….and played college football for two years. Mathias set his first decathlon world record in 1950….and led Stanford to a Rose Bowl appearance in 1952….which was the first nationally televised college football game. After graduating from Stanford in 1953 with a BA in Education, Mathias spent two and a half years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was promoted to the rank of captain and was honorably discharged.                                                                                                                                                     

Olympics – 1930 To 2006 – Special Film – “The Life & Times Of Olympic Track Hero Bob Mathias”       

Olympics – 1952 – Helsinki Games Highlights – Featuring USA Gold Medal Winners – With Bob Mathias Winning @nd Olympic Gold In Decathlon

At Helsinki in 1952, Mathias established himself as one of the world’s greatest all-around athletes. He won the decathlon by the astounding margin of 912 points, which established a new world record, and he became the first person to successfully defend an Olympic decathlon title.  He returned to the United States as a national hero. His 7,887 point total at the Helsinki Olympics remained the school record at Stanford for 63 years until it was broken in 2015 by a freshman, Harrison Williams.  In 1952, he was the first person to compete in an Olympics and a Rose Bowl the same year. After the 1952 Olympics, Mathias retired from athletic competition. He later became the first director of the United States Olympic Training Center, a post he held from 1977 to 1983.                                                                                                                      

Olympics – 1948 & 1952 – London & Helsinki Games – Special Film – Olympic Decathlon: USA Bob Mathias


Olympics – 1948 & 1952 – London And Helsinki Games – Special – “From Olympics To Movies To Congress” – The Bob Mathias Story

He and his wife Melba can be seen on the 29th April 1954 edition of You Bet Your Life. During the discussion he mentions a forthcoming film in which the couple played themselves, called The Bob Mathias Story. He also starred in a number of mostly cameo-type roles in a variety of movies and TV shows throughout the 1950’s. In the 1959–1960 television season, Mathias played Frank Dugan, with costars Keenan Wynn as Kodiak and Chet Allen as Slats, in the TV series The Troubleshooters, which focused 26 episodes on events at construction sites.  In 1960, he also appeared playing an athletic Theseus in an Italian “peplum,” or sword-and-sandal, film: Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete.                    

Track & Field / Olympics – 1930 – 2006 – Special – Bob Mathia: “From Tulare, CA To The Olympics To Congress” – Set To Queen Song “We Are The Champions”


Olympics – 1948 – London Games – Highlights – USA’s Bob Mathias Wins Decathlon Gold At Age 17


Olympics – 1952 – Helsinki Games – Special Highlights Of USA Bob Mathias Becoming First To Retain Decathlon Gold

Between 1967 and 1975, Mathias served four terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican, representing the northern San Joaquin Valley of California   (These were the same eight years in which Ronald Reagan served two terms as governor of California.) He defeated Harlan Hagen, the 14-year Democratic Party incumbent, by about 11% in the 1966 election. This was not too surprising because this area started to move away from its New Deal Democratic roots.  Mathias was re-elected three times without serious difficulty, but in 1974, his district was significantly redrawn in a mid-decade redistricting. His district was renumbered as the 17th District, and picked up a large chunk of Fresno while losing several rural areas. Mathias was narrowly defeated for re-election by John Hans Krebs, a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Mathias was one of several Republicans swept out in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  From June to August 1975, Mathias served as the deputy director of the Selective Service. Mathias also was involved in the unsuccessful 1976 presidential re-election campaign of Gerald Ford.


Track + Field & Olympics – 1945 To 2006 – Special Film – “A Tribute To Sim Iness” – Starring Bob Mathias


  1. Came across your site by accident. How do you acquire shows for your library?
    Since you have Olympics stories and ABC sports stories, you must make deals with producers, networks and sports organizations.
    How do I submit “other sports” shows from the 80’s?

    Mark Morris
    Lloyd-Morris Prods.

    1. Howdy Mark….and thanks for your comment. To answer all of your questions at once…none of the above…as I simply had 2300 hrs of vintage video that I recorded from 1977 to 1991 on Sony BetaMax…..which was 97% preserved in the condition as seen in my posts…so I transferred the entire library to digital….and began posting (first on youtube and from there onto an ImaSportsphile post. I hope that helps….as we always hope that our visitors to our sight enjoy our content as much as we enjoy posting it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button