Olympic Pole Vault Champion, Don Bragg, Dies at 83


Courtesy of villanova.edu

Olympic Pole Vault Champion, Don Bragg, Dies at 83

Tyler Kemp

This past Saturday, former Villanova track & field athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist Don Bragg passed away at the age of 83 after a multi-year battle with dementia. Bragg earned the nickname of “Tarzan” for playing the role of the title character in the film that never released. Bragg’s athletic career as a pole vaulter was one that was beyond belief.

Standing at 6’3” and weighing nearly 200 pounds, Bragg was listed as one of the largest athletes in pole vault history. During his career as a Wildcat, he won the 1955 NCAA National Championship in the pole vault. He would go on to continue his pole vaulting success upon his graduation from ‘Nova as from 1955-1961, Bragg either tied or won the AAU indoor championship in the pole vault (tied in the years 1955-58, won outright from 1959-61). In the outdoor championships, he took home the crown in ’59.

Bragg’s greatest achievements as an athlete came in the 1959 Pan American games in Chicago and the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He took home the gold in the PanAm games and the following year in Rome, he set a world record in the pole vault at 4.80 m. 

Following his athletic career, Bragg became athletic director at Stockton State College. In addition, he became an owner of a summer camp, an author of his own autobiography and a motivational speaker. 

Bragg is survived by his wife Theresa, four children: Renee, Mark, Tracey, and Jeff and a multitude of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Bragg represented everything that Villanova stood for as he was an upstanding individual as an athlete and as a man.