Hall of Fame

Bill Toomey

Track and Field

Olympian in Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games

Born:
January 10, 1939
Birthplace:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Hometown:
New Canaan, Connecticut
College:
University of Colorado
Stanford University

hall of fame

Bill Toomey

Track and Field

Olympian in Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games

Born:
January 10, 1939
Birthplace:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Hometown:
New Canaan, Connecticut
College:
University of Colorado
Stanford University
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee
Despite a childhood injury that limited functionality in his right (throwing) hand, Bill Toomey set an Olympic record as he won a gold medal in the decathlon at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games.
SHARE

Bill Toomey was 12 years old when an accident severed a nerve in his right hand. He would need five surgeries over the next few years just to regain about 75 percent functionality.

But as he began to emerge as one of the United States’ top track and field athletes, Toomey never mentioned the injury to his peers and competitors, even though it affected his ability to grip various objects.

“I never told anyone I had a paralyzed right hand,” Toomey said. “To tell someone would have provided me an excuse to fail.”

Toomey won five consecutive AAU pentathlon championships from 1960 to 1964 and narrowly missed qualifying for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games in the decathlon. Instead of traveling as part of the American delegation, Toomey traveled on his own and carefully watched the decathlon, resolving to improve and be a metal contender at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games.

A strong believer in the power of positive thinking, in 1965 Toomey won the first of five consecutive AAU decathlon championships – even though he threw the shotput, discus and javelin right-handed.

As Toomey kept his eye on the Mexico City 1968 Olympics, he encountered a series of obstacles. He tore a calf muscle in a pole vaulting accident, requiring 35 stitches. Having traveled to West Germany to train, he contracted mononucleosis and hepatitis, spending several months in a hospital. He shattered a kneecap in a motorcycle accident.

Every time, though, Toomey bounced back. The Mexico City 1968 Olympics decathlon wasn’t always smooth. Toomey failed in his first two pole vault attempts and was faced with the prospect of being knocked from contention before finally getting on track. He rallied to win the final event, the 1,500-meter run, to claim the gold medal with an Olympic-record 8,193 points.

“Ten is my favorite number,” he said. “Ten letters in my name. Born on January 10. Always wore number 10 as a ballplayer. It had to be the decathlon.”

Toomey continued competing for one more year, setting world records in the pentathlon and decathlon, before beginning a marketing career that the AAU determined made him a professional.



MEDAL RESULTS
1968Mexico CityDecathlonGold
RELATED GALLERY
  • Sint excepteur
connect with us
NEXT UP
  • SPORT: 
  • Swimming
  • BORN: 06.29.1985
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
Swimmer Erin Popovich is a three-time Paralympian; 14 of her 19 Paralympic medals were golds. She is a two-time winner of the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
  • SPORT: 
  • Volleyball
  • BORN: 07.30.1977
  • Los Angeles, California
Misty May-Treanor was a college star at indoor volleyball, then successfully transitioned to one of the best beach volleyball careers of all-time, teaming with Kerri Walsh Jennings to win three Olympic gold medals and retiring with a then-record 112 wins.
  • SPORT: 
  • Track and Field
  • BORN: 06.06.1944
  • Clarksville, Texas
Tommie Smith's courage to protest for racial equality continues to be remembered throughout the sports landscape.
  • SPORT: 
  • Track and Field
  • BORN: 06.05.1945
  • Harlem, New York
John Carlos and Tommie Smith's protest for racial equality has echoed throughout the sports world since the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games.
Skip to content