Bob Richards became the first man to win multiple Olympic gold medals in the pole vault at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games and Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.
He also won a bronze medal in the pole vault in the London 1948 Olympic Games and participated in the decathlon at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.
But the Illinois native, an ordained minister who starred in track and field at the University of Illinois, is probably best known for his picture on the front of Wheaties cereal boxes. Richards was the first athlete to appear on the boxes and he traveled the country as a salesman for the cereal, giving speeches and pep talks while encouraging participation in Olympic sports.
Richards said his enduring Olympic memory is in giving everything he had.
“It’s in the striving, not in the winning — that’s the Olympics,” Richards said 40 years after his first Olympic victory. “It’s not in the gold medal, but in trying to be your best, in reaching out. If we can get the peoples of the world together and just sit down in a common athletic park, that is what the Olympics is all about.”
After winning his first gold medal in the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games, during a time in history when the Cold War had chilled U.S.-Soviet relations, Richards remembered being hugged and congratulated by a Russian athlete.
“I thought it was wonderful because that’s the spirit of the Olympics, but people back home were upset because of the Cold War,” Richards said.
Richards, who carried the Olympic Torch prior to the 1996 Atlanta Games, with his wife Joan operates the Olympian Ranch breeding miniature horses in Winnsboro, Texas.