'68 Olympic coach Jordan dies of cancer

Updated: February 6, 2009, 1:56 AM ET
Associated Press

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. -- Payton Jordan, coach of the record-setting 1968 US Olympic track and field team, died Thursday. He was 91.

Jordan died of cancer at his home in Laguna Hills, daughter Cheryl Melville said.

He led the US track team to a record 24 medals, 12 of them gold, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He served as Stanford's track and field coach from 1957-79.

Years ago, Jordan recalled how his Olympic team excelled despite some black athletes threatening to boycott the games over a push for civil rights.

"We just sat down and talked about how hard everyone worked for so long to get ready for this lifetime opportunity," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1989. "It was like the high altitude in Mexico City -- something we weren't used to -- or like an injury. It was just something we had to work through and overcome."

Before his coaching career, Jordan broke world records with Southern California -- in the 440-yard relay in 1938 and the 100-yard dash on grass in 1941. His records stood for decades. He also played football for USC and played in the 1939 Rose Bowl.

Instead of competing in the 1940 and 1944 Olympics, which were canceled due to World War II, Jordan joined the Navy.

He started his coaching career at Occidental College, and later produced seven Olympic athletes at Stanford.

After retirement, he laced up his running shoes to compete in masters races. He set his last masters world record in the 100-yard dash at the Penn Relays in 1998 -- at age 80. He set his last world record in the 100-meter dash in 1997.

He was married to his wife Marge for 66 years before she died in 2006.


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