Saturday, September 7, 2013

On this Day in 1960
Don Bragg wins Olympic Pole Vault Gold, Rolando Cruz Fourth

On this day during the 1960 Olympic Games, Villanova vaulters Don "Tarzan" Bragg and Orlando Cruz went 1st and 4th in the competition.  Bragg won Gold in an Olympic Record height of 15'5" (4.70 m).  Cruz, competing for Puerto Rico, vaulted 4.55 meters for fourth place (his best placing in three olympic games).

Bragg hailed from Penns Grove, New Jersey and competed for Villanova from 1953-1957.  He won the NCAA title in the pole vault in 1955 and was IC4A champ, both indoors and out, in 1955, 1956, and 1957.  His 15'9" vault to win the US Olympic trials in 1960 was a World Record.  In 1959 Bragg set a World Record indoors, at 15'9.5" and won the Pan Am Games Gold that year as well.

Bragg was nicknames "Tarzan" due to his impressive size of 6'3" and close to 200 pounds.  This nickname was furthered both by Bragg's desire to play Tarzan in the movies after his vaulting career and by his infamous Tarzan yell from the podium at the Rome Olympics.  His list of vaulting accomplishment are:
1955 NCAA Outdoors: 1st
1957 AAU Indoors:   1st
1958 AAU Indoors:   1st
1959 AAU Indoors:   1st
1959 AAU Outdoors:  1st
1960 AAU Indoors:   1st
1960 Rome Olympics: Gold OR
1961 AAU Indoors:   1st

Rolando Cruz competed for his native Puerto Rico in the 1956 (at the age of 16), 1960, and 1964 Olympic Games.  His vault of 16' 3.5" at the IC4A meet in May 1964 set a then Villanova school record.  He won IC4A vault titles in 1962 (15'3.75") and 1963 (16'1").  Compared to Bragg, Cruz was a slight 5'11" and 150 lbs.  At the 1960 Rome Olympics, the 20-year Cruz vaulted 4.55 meters, good for fourth place.  This was his best Olympic performance, having finished 14th in 1956 and 21st in 1964.

Cruz at Madison Square Garden, 1962

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