Home > Rio 2016

Remembering Canada’s greatest Olympic moments: Percy Williams’ double gold in 1928

Percy Williams won two gold medals at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and would later go on to set a world record in the men's 100m (photo: Canadian Olympic Committee).

Percy Williams
Percy Williams
Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee.

There are six days remaining until the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics. Canadian Running is remembering Canada’s greatest Olympic running moments in the leadup to the Games. The latest is Percy Williams winning double gold at the 1928 Olympics.

RELATED: Previous editions of “Remembering Canada’s greatest Olympic moments:” Donovan Bailey wins 100m gold and women make athletics debut in 1928.

While many think of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt or American Jesse Owens as notable athletes to win both the men’s 100m and 200m at the Olympics, Williams was the first to do so. The Vancouver-born runner became the first Canadian in history to win two gold medals in athletics at a single Games.

Williams, who was born in 1908, ran 10.8 to win the men’s 100m and ran 21.8 in winning the men’s 200m. His 100m victory came on this day, July 30, in 1928. His 200m win came shortly after on Aug. 1.

He and his coach worked as waiters and dishwashers to fund his training and locals helped pay for his coach’s travel to Amsterdam. Williams is one of three Canadians to have ever set the 100m world record along with Donovan Bailey and Harry Jerome. Ben Johnson set a world record in 1988 but his time was erased for doping.

Following his double performance in Amsterdam, Williams set a world record in the 100m in 1930 in Toronto by running 10.3. Soon after, he went on to win gold at the British Empire Games, which is now known as the Commonwealth Games. He was the team captain for Canada at the 1932 Olympics but did not make the finals of the 100m.

RELATED: Interactive map: The hometown of every runner on Canada’s Olympic team.

Williams committed suicide in 1982 at 74. Williams is a member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

This year’s Olympics begin on Aug. 5 with the opening ceremony and conclude on Aug. 21. The first athletics events will be held on Aug. 12 and will be capped off with the men’s marathon on the final day of the Rio Games.