Bob Richards was the second man to vault 15 feet and, like the first man over this height, Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, he dominated the event for a number of years. Richards is the only man in history to win two Olympic gold medals in the pole vault, and these came after an Olympic bronze in 1948.
Unlike many champions in this event, he was not an outstanding collegiate athlete, and while at Illinois, his best placing at the NCAA meet came in 1947 when he was in a six-way tie for first. However, he went on to win the AAU title a record nine times and won eight AAU indoor crowns. He was also Pan American Games champion in 1951 and 1955. Richards was also a top decathlete, winning the AAU title three times and the All-Around Championship once. In the 1955 Pan American Games decathlon he won the silver medal. In 1956 he made the Olympic team in the decathlon but, hampered by an injury, did not finsh. Richards later became a familiar face on TV.
He did sports commentary and was a commercial spokesman for Wheaties. He formed his own company that specializes in motivational speaking and film producing. The Reverend Robert Richards, known as the “Vaulting Vicar”, lost his family record of 15-6 (4.72) in the pole vault when his son, Bob, Jr., cleared 17-6 (5.33) in 1973.
Personal Bests: HJ – 6-3¼ (1.91) (1954); PV – 4.72i (1957); LJ – 23-3¼ (7.09) (1954); Dec – 7381 (1954).