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HISTORY: Remembering an unsung hero (March 2018)

March 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

Central Tech student raced alongside Jesse Owens

Sam Richardson’s descendants pose on the steps of Central Technical School last month. Richardson’s family also spoke on the influence he had on the Black community, Toronto, and the nation at large. COURTESY CENTRAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL

Students and staff at Central Technical School joined the descendants of Sam Richardson to officially declare the school’s front laneway Sam Richardson Way and unveil a new street sign on February 15. The celebration was also one of the school’s events that marked Black History Month. We thought it appropriate to reprint our piece on Sam Richardson, a Canadian Olympian, which we originally published last August.

By Justin Viviera

Long before Canadian legend Donovan Bailey took to the track, athlete Samuel “Sam” Richardson realized his own dream when he sprinted on the grandest field of them all at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Competing against the likes of Jesse Owens (who became a friend), Richardson held his own, coming in fifth as a member of the men’s 4×100 metre relay team, and finished 14th and 20th in the long and triple long jumps. Like Owens, he proudly represented his nation while facing the institutionalized racism of Nazi Germany.

“I’ll always remember his grace and the feeling of pride once I found out who he was and what he accomplished,” said his son Stacey Richardson, 47. “When I think about him, I’m always revisited by the gratification I grew up with from my father and his accolades.”

A local boy, Sam Richardson was born on Nov. 18, 1919, to Franklin and Maria of 222 Lippincott St. He went to school at King Edward Public School, then Lord Lansdowne Public School, and finally Central Technical School. It was there that he spent hours training on the track.

“My father used to go out onto the field at Central Tech with a rugby ball, kick it up the length of the field, run the distance and catch the ball himself,” relates Stacey. “Apparently he would do that almost all day long. I was amazed by that story and it was a reminder of how great an athlete my father was.”

At 15, Richardson won the gold medal in long jump in London, England, at the 1934 British Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games.

At that time, he was the youngest competitor to ever win a gold medal in track. A year later, he would set a Canadian record of 25 feet in long jump at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Winnipeg; a record that wouldn’t be broken for another 25 years. Between London and Berlin, he also represented Canada in France, New Zealand, and Australia. After his athletic career, Richardson began his service at the CBC in 1955 where he worked as a stagehand crew leader on the hit comedy The Wayne and Shuster Show, which aired the same year he started, as well as the children’s television show Mr. Dressup.

It was thanks to a school project that Stacey got to know more about his dad.

“There was an assignment I was given in school to do some research on a Canadian athlete. My teacher was assigning different athletes and I had mentioned to my teacher that I knew of an athlete that wasn’t mentioned.

“I talked about my father and they allowed me to do my research project on him. It was something I felt proud of doing and that’s when I started to learn more about him. I felt special to be his son.”

Richardson was 51 when his son Stacey was born, and 70 when he passed away in 1989.

Some of the faculty and students at Central Tech, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary, are aware of the handful of Olympians who got their start at the school: Atlee Mahorn, Carl Folkes, Anthony Wilson, and Keturah Anderson.

“There’s a display case and a Wall of Fame of alumni who’ve made it to the Olympics. I know there’s been quite a few runners that went to school here but I didn’t know he [Richardson] was one of the first,” said Ryan, a Central Tech student. “If he raced alongside Jesse Owens that must have been a very special experience for him.”

The CTS community is planning a tribute in honour of Richardson’s long-lasting legacy. “He was Toronto’s son,” said Stacey. “His unsung stories are a distant memory but will never be forgotten.”



LETTER TO THE EDITOR (AUGUST 2017): An inspiration to us all

NEWS (JULY 2017): Remembering an unsung hero

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