Cycling Towards an Olympic Hero: Harry Jerome

Statue of Harry Jerome on misty morning. Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong.
Statue of Harry Jerome on misty morning. Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong.

On the well-known Seawall bike path which encircles  Stanley Park, near Hallelujah Point, is the statute of Canadian black runner, Harry Jerome.  Many iconic photos have been taken of this famous local statue, often against the backdrop of  the Canada Place tented roof sails. Since the bike path is one-direction only, all cyclists must meet Harry Jerome face-on before wheeling by the statue.

Harry Jerome competed in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Summer Olympics for Canada. He won the 100-metre bronze medal  in 1964.   He died at age 42 of a brain aneurysm.  Several weeks ago, his

Statue plaque- Harry Jerome.
Statue plaque- Harry Jerome.

sister Valerie Jerome, retired 65-year old schoolteacher and also former Olympic runner in 1964  for Canada, participated in  the Olympic relay run in memory of Harry.  She was instrumental in organizing the effort to have the statute created and installed in Stanley Park.

She reminisces: “The Canadian team was small so we ate in either the American dining room or the British dining room,” she explained. “Of course, Harry didn’t always want to meet in the American dining room. Those were going to be his biggest competitors and he would try to be cool.”

But for her, “sitting and having lunch and dinner with Cassius Clay across the table and all these beautiful young black men who were just something beyond my experience in very white Vancouver in the 1950s and 1960s — those are some of the things I like to have a good chuckle about.”

Harry Jerome statue. Stanley Park, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong
Harry Jerome statue. Stanley Park, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

The Olympic bug, she says, seems to run in the family. Her grandfather, John Howard, was a railway porter who represented Canada in the 1912 Summer Olympics.

In a CBC interview TV clip with Harry, he is graciously frank but restrained in his response on the incident during  1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics when two American black athletes on the medal podium,  Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their arms as a salute to black power during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  As a child, I remembered front-page photo of this pose splashed across the newspapers.  It was during the era  of Malcom X, Black Panthers and the civil rights movement.

Harry Jerome, another Canadian Olympic hero. The cool morning condensation seemed like sweat running down his brow for a run in the park.

Interesting Reading:
Vancouver Parks Board. Stanley Park Landmarks. (Accessed Feb. 4, 2010.)
Zacharias, Yvonne. “Torch Relay Brings Back Memories for Runner Valerie Jerome, of her Famous Brother Harry”. In Vancouver Sun, Jan. 24, 2010.

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