In an exclusive interview with Lee Evans, the 1968 Olympic 400 meter champion and anchor leg of the 4x400m relay (both World Records), I asked him on why he has decided to sell his Gold Medals from those Games.
SpeedEndurance.com: As you may be aware, Tommie Smith tried to sell his Gold medal and shoes twice. Once on eBay several years ago, and recently last month. Both times he did not get his reserve price. Were you inspired to sell yours after hearing about Tommie’s? Or, have you thought about it for a while?
Lee Evans: I decided to look into selling mine after reading about the British athlete who sold his for $300,000 and after reading about the Hockey player from the 1980 team selling his for $300,000. In 2001 I had an offer of $60,000 but did not sell.
SpeedEndurance.com: Everyone will be asking what you will do with the money once you sell them. Are you spearheading any foundation projects? You are currently the Head Coach of Athletics for Kima Inc, a consulting firm for the government of Cross River State in the City of Calabar, Nigeria. Is there any correlation?
Lee Evans: My wife who is Liberian has enlisted me to help her build a Primary school in her Mother’s village in Liberia. Presently there is no school there. Liberia in the last 4 years has been peaceful, before this peace there was a 15 year civil war that devastated the country. My wife and i want to help the poor and disadvantaged.
SpeedEndurance.com: Once you sell the medals, what event will your greatest memory? As far as physical items go, do you still have the track uniform? How about the black beret from the medal presentations? (Ron Freeman and Larry James would also have the same black berets)
Lee Evans: My greatest memory from the 1968 was the pride and tears my Mother shed in joy after my Olympic win. My brothers and Sisters told me that when they watched the race on television she cried and said "he came from me". That has always touched my heart. The black beret and gloves were stolen from my bag the next spring at a track meet at Bud Winters Field in San Jose. I suggest you read my autobiography The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City
SpeedEndurance.com: Tommie Smith once quoted in a 2008 interview:
It [the raised fist silent gesture protest] was what I wanted to do. Of course, we had the platform of the Olympic Project of Human Rights that brought us athletes to that point. But during the games, the Olympic Project of Human Rights was shut. It was up to each athlete.
And you know the first group of black American athletes on the victory stand was the four-by-four-relay. And they didn’t do anything. They felt that it was necessary to make money.
What did he mean by that?
Lee Evans: That quote sounds like it came from John Carlos, not Tommie. The 4 x 400 meter relay was the last event, we wore Black berets and wore black socks, this was our protest. The first black athletes on the victory stand was the 100 meters, Jim Hines and Charlie Green, they were 1st and 3rd respectively. They did not protest.
About me, I was the first athlete to run the 400 meters under 45 seconds automatic timing, there were 3 athletes that had run the time by hand timing. I was the first athlete to run 400 meters under 44 seconds. 43.86… the record stood for 20 years. The athlete who broke my record Butch Reynolds was busted for drugs later. I also won 6 national 400 meter titles.
SpeedEndurance.com: Thank you for your time in answering these questions.
If you are interested in purchasing these medals, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.