Glenn Davis (USA) competing in the 1960 Rome Olympics (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Glenn Davis passes away after long illness

Glenn Davis, the 1956 and 1960 Olympic 400m Hurdles champion and a multiple World record breaker over the barriers and on the flat, died at the age of 74 on Wednesday 28 January 2009 at Summa Barberton Hospital in Barberton, Ohio, USA, after a long illness. He had pulmonary fibrosis.

Glenn Ashby "Jeep" Davis (Born 12 September 1934 in Wellsburg, West Virginia) won a total of three Olympic gold medals taking a 4x400m relay title as part of USA’s World record setting squad in Rome 1960 (3:02.2), the Games in which he retained his Olympic hurdles crown. Though only 25 at the time he retired from athletics after the Games.

In a glittering career he set a total of seven ratified World records, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine and in 1958 won the James E. Sullivan Award as the country's top amateur athlete.

Davis showed exceptional range for a runner, competing in both flat races and hurdle events at distances from 50 to 600 yards. He also competed in the Long Jump and High Jump.

While at Ohio State University, Davis won 26 ‘Big Ten’ titles and was a four-time NCAA champion. In 1956, he took up the 400m Hurdles to prepare for the Olympic Games in Melbourne. In less than three months, at the US Olympic Trials in the Los Angeles Coliseum on 29 June, he set a World record of 49.5 seconds, the first time anyone had run the event in less than 50 seconds. At the Melbourne Olympics on 24 November he brought home a USA sweep of the medals winning in 50.1 sec, an Olympic record and the equal third fastest time ever on hand timing.

In 1958, Mr. Davis set World records in the 400m Hurdles (49.2 seconds), 440-yard Hurdles (49.9) and twice at the 440-yard flat dash (45.8 and 45.7). He tied the mark for the 200m Hurdles (22.5) in 1960.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics Davis led home another US medal sweep in the 400m Hurdles. His time of 49.3, an Olympic record, was the third fastest time in history and gave him six of the nine marks of 49.6 or better.

Davis, the ninth of 10 children, grew up in poverty and was nicknamed "Jeep" after a character in Popeye cartoons. After Davis' parents died on consecutive days when he was 15, he moved in with relatives in Barberton.

After his track career, Davis played two years as a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League, after which he became the track coach at Cornell University from 1963 to 1967. He returned to Barberton, where he coached and taught until the early 1990s. He is survived by his wife, Delores, three children, two sisters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

IAAF