Wyomia Tyus

Olympic Gold Medalist

Wyomia Tyus at 1968 Olympics
Wyomia Tyus wins gold at 1968 Olympics. Also on the stand: Barbara Ferewell and Irene Szewinski. Getty Images / Agence France Presse

About Wyomia Tyus:

Known for: consecutive Olympic gold medals, 1964 and 1968, women's 100-meter dash

Dates: August 29, 1945 -

Occupation: athlete

More About Wyomia Tyus:

Wyomia Tyus, with three brothers, became active in sports early. She was educated in Georgia in segregated schools, and played basketball and later began to run. In high school she competing in the Girls' National Championships of the Amateur Athletics Union, placing first in the 50-yard, 75-yard, and the 100-yard races.

After winning the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash, Wyomia Tyus traveled to African countries as a goodwill ambassador, running training clinics and helping athletes learn to compete in world competions.

Wyomia Tyus planned to compete again in 1968 and was caught up in the controversy over whether black American athletes should compete or should refuse to compete in protest of American racism. She chose to compete. She did not give the black power salute when she was honored for winning gold medals for the 100-meter dash and as anchor of the team for the 400-meter relay, but she wore black shorts and dedicated her medal to the two athletes, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, who had given the black power salute when they won their medals.

Wyomia Tyus was the first athlete to win gold medals for a sprint in consecutive Olympics.

In 1973, Wyomia Tyus turned professional, running for the International Track Association.

She later taught physical education and coached. She continued to be active in Olympics-related organizations and to support women's sports.

In 1974, Wyomia Tyus joined Billie Jean King and other women athletes in founding the Women's Sports Foundation, which aims to enhance opportunities for girls in sports.

Background, Family:

  • Born in Griffin, Georgia
  • Father: Willie Tyus, dairy worker
  • Mother: Marie, laundress
  • only girl and youngest of four children

Education:

  • high school in Georgia
  • college at Tennessee State University; recreation major

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Art Simburg (divorced)
  • husband: Duane Tillman
  • children: Simone (daughter) and Tyus Tillman (son)

Selected Wyomia Tyus Quotations

• Starting all over, it's kind of difficult saying where you want to go. You go step by step, waiting and waiting, and, I guess, being a sprinter, it's hard to wait.

• I never think about anybody. I let them think about me.

• I wasn't paid a dime for my track career. But participating in the Olympics gave me the opportunity to learn about different cultures; it made me a better person. I wouldn't trade the time I competed for anything.

• After the Olympics I did not even run across the street.

• You can be the best in the world and not be recognized.... A lot of it has to do with breaks. If a coach at Tennessee State hadn't given me a break at 14, I never would have been in the Olympic Games.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Wyomia Tyus." ThoughtCo, Jun. 5, 2017, thoughtco.com/wyomia-tyus-biography-3530584. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, June 5). Wyomia Tyus. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wyomia-tyus-biography-3530584 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Wyomia Tyus." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wyomia-tyus-biography-3530584 (accessed November 20, 2017).