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In memoriam: Olympic gold medalist Cliff Bourland, 97

USC’s two-time NCAA 440 champ was the USA’s oldest surviving Olympic gold medalist

by USC Athletics
Sprinter Cliff Borland
Olympic gold medal sprinter and two-time NCAA 440-yard dash champion Cliff Bourland (Photo/Courtesy of USC Athletics)

Olympic gold medal sprinter and two-time NCAA 440-yard dash champion Cliff Bourland, who was the oldest living Olympic gold medalist for USC and the USA, died Feb. 1 of complications due to pneumonia in Santa Monica. He was 97.

Bourland celebrated his 97th birthday on New Year’s Day. He was 11 days younger than USC’s oldest current surviving Olympian, swimmer Iris Cummings Critchell, who swam in the 1936 Berlin Games but did not medal.

Bourland won a gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics while running the second leg on the USA’s 1600-meter relay team. He also placed fifth in the 200-meter dash in those London Games.

He lettered for three years (1941-43) on USC’s track and field team, as the Trojans won the NCAA team championship each year under coach Dean Cromwell.  He was a captain of Troy’s 1943 squad, which sent just four athletes, including Bourland, to the NCAA Meet yet won the team title. He captured the NCAA 440-yard title in 1942 and 1943. He also competed in the 100- and 220-yard dashes at the NCAA Meet, placing third in the 100 and second in the 220 in 1941 and then third in the 220 in both 1942 and 1943. The 46 total points he scored at the NCAAs was a school record and currently is fourth most ever.

In record time

At the AAU Championships, Bourland won the 400 meters in both 1942 and 1943 (he was second in the 200 meters both years) after placing third in the 400 in 1941. He ran a leg on a 1600-meter relay team at the 1941 AAUs that broke the world record despite finishing second.

He was presented with the USC track and field program’s Heritage Award in 1990 in the award’s first year.

Bourland came to USC from Venice High, where he was the 1938 L.A. City 440-yard dash champion.

He served in the Navy during World War II. After his sprinting career, he worked in the shoe, insurance and mortgage banking industries. He also was a golfer.

Bourland is survived by his wife, Caroline Jane, his sons Cliff Jr. and Alexander, his daughter Rhonda Jane Groves, his grandson David Groves and grandchildren Avery and Jackson Groves.

The family will hold a private service.

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In memoriam: Olympic gold medalist Cliff Bourland, 97

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