Charley Paddock was an American track star in the 1920s who specialized in the 100-meter and 200-meter races. Paddock won a total of four Olympic medals, including a pair of golds, and participated in all three Summer Olympic Games held in the '20s.
Following military service in World War I with the Marines, Paddock took part in the Inter-Allied Games in Paris in 1919. The Inter-Allied Games were held to display the athletic talents of current and former service members from countries on the side of the victorious Allies. Paddock won both the 100-meter and 200-meter events, thereby setting the stage for his emergence as one of the world's preeminent sprinters in the decade to come.
Paddock matriculated at the University of Southern California following his discharge and honed his considerable skills there over the next few years. In addition to his tremendous speed, he perfected a leaping finish to his races that impressed the competition and entertained the fans.
Paddock's personal bests included a then world record of 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters in 1921 and a 21.0 seconds in the 200 meters two years later. (It is important when comparing sprint bests of nearly a century ago to the present to take into account the inferior track surfaces of long ago, as well as the absence of performance-enhancing drugs that have been so prevalent in the sport in recent decades.)
The popular Paddock was a star at the 1920 Games in Antwerp. He took the gold in the 100 meters, and another as a member of the winning 4x100 meter relay team, while earning the silver at the 200-meter distance. He was less successful four years later in Paris, with another silver in the 200 meters, but only a fifth-place standing in the 100 meters.
Paddock went on to act in some movies and to work in newspaper jobs traveling the world. He was a significant figure in the award-winning movie, "Chariots of Fire," which details controversies surrounding top British runners at the 1924 Games.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Paddock rejoined the Marines. He was killed in a plane crash in 1943 at the age of forty-two. The man once dubbed the "World's Fastest Human" was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1976.