Today, on what would have been his 79th birthday, the late Vancouver sprinter Harry Jerome gets a Google Doodle in his honour, in Canada. Jerome, who competed at three Olympic Games and held seven world records during his career, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1982 at 42. The annual Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard Stadium has carried his name since 1984.
“He would have loved it,” says Jerome’s sister, Valerie Jerome, who was herself a world-class sprinter, inspired by her brother. “And I’m just thrilled. He’s been gone 35 years, and it’s nice to know he’s still remembered. Harry was always a very forward-looking person–he actually got my son a computer in the months before he passed away… he was always one step ahead of everybody. He was a restless person who enjoyed whatever was new. He would have been tickled.”
The Jeromes’ maternal grandfather was John Armstrong Howard, a railway porter who ran for Canada in 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Jerome attended the University of Oregon and trained under the legendary Bill Bowerman, competing for Canada at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics and winning the bronze medal in the 100m at Tokyo. He also won gold at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and the 1967 Pan American Games, and set or tied world records in both the 100m and the 100 yards multiple times (he was the first person ever to run 10.0 in the 100m).
Jerome suffered a catastrophic injury requiring surgery in 1962 and was told he would never run again, but he was determined to rehabilitate himself and prove his doctors wrong. He competed in two more Olympic Games and continued to set world records.
He was very poorly treated by a racist press (and occasionally public), who called him a quitter after he became injured. “He was tough, but he did not show his anger in public or engage in confrontations,” says Valerie. “He tended to just get up and run very very well and prove people wrong.”
According to Google’s History of the Google Doodle, the doodle originated with the founders playfully inserting a simple “Burning Man” stick figure behind the second ‘o’ in the logo during the 1998 festival in the Nevada desert. The practice grew so much over the years, with the doodle celebrating events both famous and obscure, that it’s now overseen by a team of anonymous illustrators known as “doodlers.”
The artwork for the Google Doodle, by the Toronto artist and illustrator Moya Garrison-Msingwana, is loosely inspired by the statue of Jerome by Jack Harman at Hallelujah Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.