SAN FRANCISCO -- Bob Mathias, a two-time Olympic champion in
the decathlon and former U.S. congressman, died Saturday. He was
The U.S. Olympic Committee said in a statement that Mathias died
in his home in Fresno, Calif. His brother said the cause was
Bob Mathias became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in a track
and field event in 1948 in London, when he won the decathlon at 17.
It was only his third decathlon competition, having qualified for
the Olympics by winning two events in the United States.
At the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland, he became the first
athlete to repeat as Olympic champion in the decathlon. Earlier
that year, he played fullback for Stanford in its Rose Bowl
appearance. Though the Washington Redskins drafted him, he never
signed. Mathias also won the 1948 Sullivan Award as the nation's
top amateur athlete.
"He just had a lot of natural ability in everything he did,"
Eugene Mathias said.
Eugene Mathias said his brother was a gifted athlete from
childhood, often outperforming older children.
"I tried jumping the high jump and I couldn't make it. He was
three years younger and he said 'let me try it.' He did it and he
made it," Eugene Mathias recalled. "We knew then that he could
just do anything athletic."
After retiring from sports, Mathias served as a Republican
congressman representing California from 1967-74, serving four
terms. Following his political career, Mathias became the first
director of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs,
He also is a member of the U.S. Olympic and national track and
field halls of fame.
Mathias was The Associated Press male athlete of the year in
"Bob Mathias was one of those rare individuals with the ability
to inspire a nation through his determination and perseverance. He
was a champion in every aspect of life, and he embraced the values
that make our country and the worldwide Olympic movement special,"
USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a statement.
Eugene Mathias said his brother never boasted of his Olympic
accomplishments and was happy to return to his home in California's
Central Valley after his Olympic days ended.
"He liked the Valley here. He liked his hometown," he said.
Mathias is survived by his wife, Gwen, and several children.