Herb Douglas, 1948 Olympic long jump medalist, dies at 101

Herb Douglas

Herb Douglas, who turned a chance encounter with Jesse Owens as a teenager into fuel to win a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1948 Olympics, has died. He was 101.

The University of Pittsburgh, where Douglas starred on the football and track teams before later serving in various roles for his alma mater, said Douglas died Saturday.

“In every role that he filled, as an aspiring athlete from Hazelwood, as a student-athlete and University trustee and as an esteemed businessman, Olympian and community leader, Herb Douglas excelled,” Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “He was both a champion himself and a champion of others, never hesitating to open doors of opportunity and help people pursue their own success.”

Douglas, a Pittsburgh native, was 14 when he met Owens, the American track and field star who won four gold medals in sprints and the long jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Owens spoke at an elementary school near the Hazelwood neighborhood where Douglas grew up.

“I prayed every day to stand on the podium and make the Olympic team,” Douglas said. “When he left, Jesse put his arms around me and told me to get an education.”

He told Douglas: “That’s more than what I did at your age” and encouraged Douglas to go to college. Douglas eventually checked both items — the Olympics and a college education.

Douglas hoped to compete at the 1944 Olympics, which were canceled due to World War II. After starting his college career at Xavier University in New Orleans, a Historically Black College and University, he returned home to Pittsburgh to work at his father’s parking garage.

Douglas eventually enrolled at Pitt in 1945, becoming one of the first African Americans to play football for the Panthers while also starring on the track team. He won four intercollegiate championships in the long jump and another in the 100-yard dash at Pitt and three AAU titles in the long jump. He earned a spot on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team after finishing runner-up to Willie Steele at the Olympic trials.

Douglas’ leap of 24-feet-9 inches (7.545 meters) at the 1948 Olympics in London carried him to bronze behind gold medalist Steele and silver medalist Thomas Bruce of Australia.

“As the years went on, I accepted that third place like it was first place,” Douglas told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2021.

Douglas hoped to go into coaching after earning his master’s degree in education from Pitt in 1950 but found few coaching opportunities in his hometown before going into the corporate world.

He worked in sales and marketing, starting at Pabst Brewing Co. He moved to Philadelphia when he joined Schieffelin and Co., which was later acquired by Moet Hennessy. He became a vice president, among the first African Americans at that level, and worked there 30 years.

Douglas maintained close ties with his alma mater throughout his life, establishing the Herb P. Douglas scholarship and serving as a mentor to track star Roger Kingdom, who went on to win gold in the 110m hurdles at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

“We developed such a bond that I started to call him ‘Daddy Herb,’ ” Kingdom said. “He inspired me in so many ways but gave me two very important directives. First, finish my degree as I promised my mother. Second, he shared his secret for success: ‘Always analyze, organize, initiate and follow through.’”

Douglas was inducted into the inaugural Pitt athletics Hall of Fame class in 2018. The university also is naming the 300-meter indoor track at its planned Victory Heights facility after Douglas.

“His incredible intellect and determination were only surpassed by his personal kindness,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said. “Pitt Athletics is forever indebted to his passion and support.”

Douglas, who remained friendly with Owens, co-founded the non-profit International Athletic Association and created the Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace.

Born March 9, 1922, Douglas’ survivors include his wife Minerva Douglas, daughter Barbara Joy Ralston, daughter-in-law Susan Douglas and four grandchildren.

At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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