Henry Carr, Olympic Champion (1941-2015)

From Montgomery, Alabama to the top of the podium in Tokyo, Henry Carr saw it all in his lifetime. Today would have been his 78th birthday and we’ll take a brief look at his life in this article.

Early talents on the track

Carr was the 9th of 11 children and moved to Detroit when he was young. He ran for Northwestern High School and became their state champion sprinter. A time of 9.3 seconds in the 100-yard dash won him the title. When it came to choosing a university, he went with Arizona State and ran for the ASU Sun Devils. There, he won three national titles and set world records in the 220 yards race and as part of the 4 x 440 yard relay team.

In 1963, he won the NCAA title in 200m, running a time of 20.5s. He ran two world record times that same year but that wasn’t the end of his record-breaking. Carr broke his own record again a year later at 220 yards with a 20.2s time. His prowess earnt him a place on the biggest stage of all – the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Henry Carr – Double Olympic champion

With the times he was running, Henry Carr was almost certain to win gold in the 200m. But his preparation wasn’t plain sailing. He qualified for the final Olympic trials but finished in 4th place, with only 3 allowed to qualify. Fortunately for Carr, his previous wins were enough for the selectors to pick him for the Tokyo games. And they made a good decision. In the 200m final. Carr won the race in Olympic record time and helped the US 4x400m relay team to win gold.

They were to be his only Olympic Games as he retired with two golds.

“I didn’t think it was that fast. This was the easiest of my races.”

Henry Carr, after his olympic 200m final victory

From running track to cornerback

Carr swapped his spikes for cleats in 1965 as he entered the NFL draft and was selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round. He spent three seasons there as a safety and cornerback, playing 37 games, scoring 1 TD and making 7 interceptions. A knee injury curtailed his career and he never played American football again (his try-out with the Detroit Lions in ’69 ended with Carr quitting their training camp).

Life after sport

Two gold medals and three seasons with an NFL team gave Carr the life of a top athlete but it was hard to transition to normal life after retirement. He fell into gambling and drug addiction and never returned to sport. In the 70s, he became a Jehovah’s Witness and turned his life around. He settled down in Atlanta, Georgia and later became an elder and owned a restaurant.

He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1997.

Henry Carr passed away in 2015, survived by two daughters, one son, and five grandchildren.

(via Michigan Chronicle)

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