By Nick Butler

One of the greatest sprinters in United States history, two-time London 1948 Olympic gold medallist Mel Patton, has died at the age of 89.
Born in Los Angeles, Patton earned a reputation as a strong sprinter while at University High School in the early 1940s before making a breakthrough as a student at the University of Southern California (USC) following two years in the US Navy.

He won the first of three National Collegiate (NCAA) titles, over 100 yards, in 1947, before claiming victories over both 100 and 200 metres in 1948 and 1949.

In those years he also broke the longstanding world record for the 100 and 220 yard races, running times of 9.3sec and 20.2 to break records held by another US legend of the sport, Jesse Owens, by which time he had earned the nickname "Pell Mell"

The 100y record would remain unbroken until 1961 and, with the distance rarely run today, the time remains second on the all-time USC rankings.

But it was his performances at the first post-war Olympics, in London, for which Patton is best remembered after he won a 200m gold medal before forming part of the victorious US 4 x 100m relay quartet.

Yet the Games were not without disappointment as he finished in only fifth place in the 100m, behind a fellow American in hurdles specialist Harrison Dillard, despite being ranked number one in the world in 1947 and 1949.

Despite this he became one of a prestigious group of sports-people to feature on the front cover of Time Magazine in recognition of his achievements.  

On August 2, 1948 Mel Patton became one of the few athletes to have ever featured on the cover of TIME magazine ©TIME MagazineOn August 2, 1948, Mel Patton became one of the few athletes to have ever featured on the cover of TIME magazine ©TIME Magazine

All of this success was all the more remarkable considering the fact that, when he was eight, he was hit by a truck outside his home, and his left leg was shattered an inch below the hip, although he later made a full recovery.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education and later became a coach, at Long Beach City College in California from 1949 until 1955, and the University of Wichita in Kansas from 1955 until 1956.

In later years, he also directed the National Sports Programme of Saudi Arabia, managed an electronics company and worked with an executive search firm.

Patton was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1985.

It was announced by USC today that Patton died last Friday (May 9) in the town of Fallbrook close to San Diego.

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