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Harry Jerome Indoor Games return to Richmond

By Matthew Cheung

Published 3:04 PST, Mon January 23, 2023

Last Updated: 12:31 PST, Fri January 27, 2023

The Harry Jerome Indoor Games are returning to the Richmond Olympic Oval on Feb. 4.

The annual track and field event has been held at the Oval since 2011, but its origins date back to 1964. After being cancelled in 2021 and 2022, organizers are eager to return to the event this year.

“This year will be a challenge as we try to return to a more normal situation as the COVID threat is declining,” says Doug Clement, a member of the Harry Jerome Organization communications committee. “Meet organizers Carl Savage and Fred Pawluk are attempting to regain the rhythm of the now-annual event since 2011 at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Track and field clubs across the province have been severely affected by the pandemic and it is unknown how well organizations can support an indoor competition as early as Feb. 4. It is encouraging to know (that) over 200 entries have been received—we are hoping to meet our normal entry of over 500 athletes of all ages.” 

In 1964, Vancouver hosted the inaugural Achilles meet, now called the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic. That event, held at Empire Stadium, was the preview to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The name of the event was changed to the Harry Jerome International Track Classic in 1984. 

Harry Jerome was born on Sept. 30, 1940, in Prince Albert, Sask. He moved to the Vancouver area in 1951 and excelled in all sports that he participated in, including baseball and football. With speed being his greatest trait, he became one of Canada’s top sprinters. At the age of 18, the North Vancouverite had already broken the record for the 220-yard sprint that had previously been held by Olympic gold medallist Percy Williams. 

Jerome’s popularity rose in 1960, when he matched the world record for 100 meters, recording a time of 10.0 seconds at the Olympic trials in Saskatoon. The results from the trials highlighted Jerome as one of the top up-and-coming sprinters heading to Rome for the 1960 Summer Olympic Games, but things did not go his way. In the 100-metre semifinals, Jerome pulled a muscle and failed to qualify for the final run. 

In the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth games, Jerome finished last in the competition and was blasted by the media, who labelled him a quitter although tests confirmed that he had torn his left thigh muscle so severely that he might not compete ever again. 

Jerome slowly began to live up to his previous hype when he returned to the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, earning a bronze medal in the 100-metre final. He finished fourth in the 200-metre final, receiving some recognition from the media. 

Jerome went on to claim gold in the 1966 British Commonwealth Games, setting a world record of 9.1 seconds over 100 yards, and also won gold at the 1967 Pan American games. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he finished seventh in the Olympic final, sending a message that regardless of his injuries and the negative press, he never gave up. 

He then retired from running competitively and started working for the Federal Ministry of Sport, developing the B.C. Premier’s Sports Awards Program in the hopes of encouraging young people to pursue their athletic dreams. Jerome was awarded the Order of Canada in 1971 and named B.C.’s Athlete of the Century. 

He suddenly passed away on Dec. 7, 1982 at the age of 42 due to a brain aneurysm. 

Competitors who wish to participate in the 2023 Harry Jerome Indoor games can sign up for the event through the website. Early bird registration is $17.50 per person per event and ends on Jan. 29. Participants registered before this date will get athlete’s bibs with their names on them. 

People who register between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1 can still pay the $17.50 early bird price, but their name will not be printed on their bib. Registration on the day of the event (Feb. 4) is $25 per person subject to availability. 

Participants must have a 2023 BC Athletics or equivalent membership to take part in the meet. Athletes who do not have such eligibility because their elementary or high school does not have a club may participate in the meet with a Day of Event membership, which is only for those who are in the junior development age group (born between 2010 and 2014). 

The Harry Jerome Indoor Games takes place on Feb. 4 and includes a variety of events like races, shot put, race walks, high jump, mixed relay, and 60-metre hurdles. The event provides opportunities for competition for all age groups ranging from junior development to adults.

“The Harry Jerome Indoor Games is unique in that it provides opportunities for age groups U16, U18, open, and masters athletes to participate in the legacy from the 2010 Olympic Games,” says Clement. 

For more information, visit harryjerome.com.

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