Washington: Rafer Johnson, USA flagbearer and decathlon gold medalist at the Olympic Games Rome 1960 has passed away at the age of 86.
No cause of death was given. A statement from the school said he died at his Sherman Oaks, California, home surrounded by family, CNN reported.
According to USA Track and Field (USATF) Johnson, who was a native of Texas, was born in Hillsboro on August 18, 1934, and moved to California when he was in middle school. The family settled near Fresno in Kingsburg, where Johnson was an excellent athlete in football, baseball, basketball, and track.
An outstanding sprinter and long jumper, he gravitated to the decathlon after seeing two-time Olympic champion Bob Mathias compete in 1948 and ’52.
Johnson, who was the first Black captain of the US Olympic Team, had won two California high school decathlon titles and by 1955, in his fourth attempt at the event, he scored 7,608 points, displacing Mathias as the world record holder.
That same year, he won the decathlon at the Pan-American Games. In 1956, he qualified for the Olympic team in both the long jump and decathlon, but because of a knee injury, he limited himself to the 10-event competition. At Melbourne, he finished second to fellow American and Hall of Famer Milt Campbell.