Biography:

At a time when Canada was not known for their prowess in the sport of track and field, Henry “Harry” Winston Jerome was a true pioneer. He made his Olympic debut at Rome 1960 as the 100m co-world record holder and a medal favourite. Jerome was in the lead in the first 100m semi-final when he tore his hamstring unable to finish and was crushed to be declared a “quitter” with not enough courage to face the challenge of the heavy competition. He was also eliminated in the opening round of the 4x100m relay alongside Canadian teammates Lynn Eves, George Short and Terry Tobacco.

By Tokyo 1964, Jerome had overcome his disappointing result at Rome 1960 and a near career ending full quadriceps tear in 1962. He won his 100m semi-final and then in the final he silenced his critics when he captured the bronze medal in 10.25 seconds, just two one-hundredths of a second from silver. In the 200m at Rome 1964, Jerome finished just off the podium in fourth. He was now in a respected place amongst the ranks of the world’s fastest men.

In his third and final Olympic Games at Mexico City 1968, Jerome finished seventh in the 100m where positions second to seventh were a blanket finish, only separated by 0.16 seconds. He was eliminated in the 200m quarterfinals.

At the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Jerome tore his whole left quadriceps muscle requiring a four hour surgery to repair it. Not sure he would ever run again, Jerome did not give up, and success at Tokyo 1964 was the first major stepping stone on the comeback path to his athletics glory. In 1965, he won the 100m bronze medal at the Summer Universiade, and gold at 1966 Commonwealth Games and 1967 Pan-American Games.

Jerome set seven world records during his career, the first at the 1960 National Championships in Saskatoon (10.0 seconds for the 100m). From 1963 to 1966, Jerome held or equaled four 100m/100 yards world records concurrently. There were five records in the 100m/100 yards, one over 60 yards indoor, and one as a member of the University of Oregon 4x100m relay team that tied the world record of 40.0 seconds in 1962. Jerome was one of the few men to hold both the 100m and the 100 yard dash marks simultaneously in the 1960s. 

Jerome was the first of five children in a family that settled in Vancouver. An all-around athlete, he excelled in soccer, football and baseball, pitching two no-hitters in high school. His natural speed eventually brought him to the track team at 17. By 18, Jerome was the first runner in 31 years to break Percy Williams’ Canadian record in the 220 yard dash. Graduating in 1959 from North Vancouver High School, Jerome accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon in Eugene where his coach was the great Bill Bowerman (Nike co-founder) who even hand-crafted many of Jerome’s racing flats. While breaking world records on the track, Jerome was also worked on a Master’s degree in physical education. Along the way, he was offered an opportunity to play Canadian football with the Montreal Alouettes, but declined.

Jerome’s grandfather John “Army” Howard, had been Canada’s top sprinter in the 1910s. The 1912 national sprint champion, Howard represented Canada at Stockholm 1912. In 1959, Jerome repeated in grandfather’s feat at nationals, while his sister Valerie, also a 1960 Olympian, won the 60m, 100m and long jump. 

Retiring from competition after Mexico City 1968, Jerome devoted his life to providing sports opportunities for Canada’s youth. A mentor and inspiration for Canadians, Jerome worked in the Federal Ministry of Sport and developed British Columbia’s Premier’s Sport Awards Program to encourage young people to strive for their own athletic dreams. In his honour The “Harry Jerome International Track Classic” is held annually at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia. The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) hosts the “Harry Jerome Awards” annually to recognize members of the African-Canadian community. 

Jerome was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1963, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, received the Order of Canada in 1973, and Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. For his outstanding athletic achievements, Jerome was named British Columbia’s male athlete of the 20th century. He suffered a seizure in 1981 and never fully recovered. In 1982, a brain aneurysm suddenly took his life when he was just 42 years of age.