Don Bragg (born 15 May 1935 in Penns Grove, New Jersey) was an American athlete who competed mainly in the pole vault. He competed for the United States in the men's pole vault event at the 1960 Summer Olympics held in Rome, Italy where he won the gold medal.
Bragg grew up in Penns Grove, New Jersey, where he attended Penns Grove High School.
Bragg was the last of the great pole vaulters to use a aluminum pole. From 1954 until 1960, he was always world ranked and capped a brilliant career in 1960 by setting a world record of 15' 9¼" (4.80 m) at the Olympic Trials and winning an Olympic gold medal with a vault of 15' 5" (4.70 m). He set a world indoor record of 15' 9½" (4.81 m) at Philadelphia in 1959 and, like Hall of Famer Cornelius Warmerdam, vaulted better indoors than outdoors.
At 6' 3" and 197 pounds, Bragg was one of the largest vaulters in history. He had to stay on a 1,200 calories (5,000 kJ) diet to stay at that weight. Any more and the aluminum alloy poles would crumple under the strain. The aluminum pole had another disadvantage: while taking it aboard a train in Philadelphia, Bragg hit an electrical line and nearly electrocuted himself.
While at Villanova University, he won the NCAA pole vault championship in 1955 and was the IC4A champion, both indoors and outdoors, from 1955 to 1957. He also tied for the AAU indoor championship. After graduating in 1957, Bragg again tied for the AAU indoor championship in 1958, then won the event from 1959 through 1961. He was also the AAU outdoor champion in 1959.
Nicknamed "Tarzan" because of his size and strength, Bragg's goal was to play that role in the movies. Few have so actively pursued a role. He toured Europe and Africa for the U.S. State Department as a goodwill ambassador, climbing trees and swinging from vines. He met Johnny Weissmüller who agreed that Bragg would be perfect as Tarzan. When he won the Gold at the 1960 Olympics he did the infamous Tarzan yell from the podium, shocking the crowd. He was offered the role twice, but was injured and missed both opportunities. His dream was unfulfilled.
He later became athletic director at Stockton State College (N.J.), the owner of a summer camp, and the author of A Chance to Dare: The Don Bragg Story.
His time running a summer camp is chronicled in Kamp Olympik by Don and Theresa Bragg as told to Patricia Doherty.
In August 2010, Bragg made a speech in Rome at a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1960 Summer Olympics. He concluded this speech with his Tarzan yell.
Famous quotes containing the words bragg and/or don:
“Theres nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered.”
—Melvyn Bragg (b. 1939)
“If music in general is an imitation of history, opera in particular is an imitation of human willfulness; it is rooted in the fact that we not only have feelings but insist upon having them at whatever cost to ourselves.... The quality common to all the great operatic roles, e.g., Don Giovanni, Norma, Lucia, Tristan, Isolde, Brünnhilde, is that each of them is a passionate and willful state of being. In real life they would all be bores, even Don Giovanni.”
—W.H. (Wystan Hugh)