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Olympics always bring -- of sadness to ex-Bear Bragg


It happens during every Olympics: Art Bragg sits down to watch the 100-meter -- on TV and begins to cry.

Bragg, a graduate of Douglass High, went to the 1952 Olympics midway through his career at Morgan State as the favorite in the 100. He had won the U.S. trials, edging Lindy Remingo and Dean Smith.

But then, in Helsinki, while loosening up on a warmup strip under the stands before the first heat of the 100, he pulled a hamstring muscle.

"The strip was close to a wall which had a few doors," said Bragg, 61, a deputy probation officer in Los Angeles. "Someone opened one of the doors and I made a quick motion to my left to avoid hitting it . . . oops, the hamstring went."

Although Bragg won his heat, the hamstring subsequently tightened. In the semifinals, virtually hobbling, Bragg was eliminated.

"I cried," Bragg said. "I had successes; that was the major disappointment. Every Olympics, when I watch the 100 on TV, I break down and cry."

It was when he was in junior high school in Baltimore that Bragg first dazzled anyone with his speed. A coach suggested he join the track team, but he declined.

At Douglass High, he was drafted first for the football team and then for track. The spring track season consisted merely of a few meets against Carver and Dunbar, and no colleges noticed him.

He enrolled at Morgan, joined the track team as a walk-on and finished last in the 300-yard run in his first time trial. In his next, the 100, Bragg won in 9.6, and went on to heady success.

After the Olympics, Bragg returned to Morgan and won a couple of national AAU titles in the 100 and 200 --es. In 1956 he headed for California and has lived there ever since.

"I had been here a few times when I was running and decided this is where I wanted to live," said Bragg.

He no longer has any Baltimore ties except for a cousin "who's in her 80s." His son is a junior at Howard University.

Forty years after his Olympic disappointment, Bragg will again sit down in front of his TV set. When the 100 is run, he will try to keep from crying.

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