Wayne Collett is most famous for his 1972 Olympic medal presentation “protest” where he won the silver medal behind American teammate Vince Matthews in the 400 meters. Had John Smith not been injured, we would have seen an American sweep.
The IOC banned Collett and Matthews for life and with John Smith injured, that left Lee Evans, the 1968 Olympic Gold medalist standing alone with no relay to run. Today, you declare six athletes, not four in a relay pool.
Like a Tibetan monk, Wayne Collett and Tommie Smith’s actions were “peaceful” and did not resort to the use of guns and weapons. A picture is worth a thousand words. You may argue that these types of protests do not belong in a sporting arena, especially the Olympics.
He quoted, "I couldn’t stand there and sing the words because I don’t believe they’re true. I wish they were. I believe we have the potential to have a beautiful country, but I don’t think we do."
A lot of people don’t realize he was also a world class 400 meter (440 yard) hurdler. He was the Angelo Taylor or Kerron Clement back then, capable of running both events.
But the reason why I respected Wayne Collett is because he did something after his short lived track “career”. (He had no choice, right?)
He went to school.
And school he did.
He earned his degree in political science in 1971 at UCLA, followed by an MBA. in 1973 and a finally a Law degree in 1977.
A lot of young athletes don’t realize that very few athletes go on after college to earn a profession in Track and Field.
The message? Don’t be stupid, stay in school.
Very sad to hear this news. I understand that he was a very kind and giving person. I found the following tribute on wildwestsports.com:
By Jon Gold on March 17, 2010
“Wayne Collett, one of the greatest athletes in UCLA track & field history, lost a long battle with cancer this morning. He was 60 years old.
Collett was a spectacular quartermiler, but also excelled in the hurdles, sprints and relays. His college coach, Jim Bush, called him “the greatest athlete I ever coached.”
In 1972, he won an Olympic Silver Medal in the 400 meters in Munich, Germany. Earlier that year, he ran the fastest 400 meter time in history at sea level in winning the U.S. Olympic Trials.
During his four-year UCLA career (1968-71), Collett won Pac-8 titles in the 440-yard intermediate hurdles and 440-yard dash. In NCAA competition, he anchored three straight mile relay championship teams. He also placed second in the 440-yard intermediate hurdles in 1970, fourth in the 440-yard dash in 1971 and fourth in the 220-yard dash in 1969. The Bruins won the NCAA team title in 1971.
A member of the UCLA Hall of Fame (1992), he still ranks in UCLA’s all-time Top Ten in the 400 meters (fourth at 44.54, converted from a 440y hand time), 400-meter hurdles (fourth at 48.84, converted from a 440y hand time) and the 200 meters (ninth at 20.44, converted from a 200m hand time).
In Track & Field News’ world rankings, Collett ranked in the top four in the 400 meters four times between 1967 and 1972, including second in both 1971 and 1972. He also ranked No. 3 in the intermediate hurdles in 1970.
Collett was an attorney who was very active in the UCLA community. He is survived by his wife, Emily; his son, Wayne Jr.; his mother, Ruth; and his older brother, Aaron. He passed at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles.”
The statement by Coach Jim Bush is quite an honor considering the many world class athletes he nurtured at UCLA. From usatf.org: As coach of the Bruins, he produced five NCAA championship teams, 21 Olympic team members and a glittering 152 victories and only 21 losses in dual meet competition (an 87.9 winning percentage).
Jimson, thanks for keeping us abreast of former track athletes that made an impact not only in sports but also in the lives of others.
Say what you want to about protests. Some are childish others adult. But being on the world stand is special and Wayne did it. Germany did everything it could to discredit the Americans so his actions were about getting back at a vile olympic committee. Sorry to see yo gone, Wayne
Vance U of oregon 70