Lennox Miller

Twice Olympic sprint medallist





Lennox Miller, athlete and dentist: born Kingston, Jamaica 8 October 1946; married (two daughters); died Pasadena, California 8 November 2004.



Lennox Miller, athlete and dentist: born Kingston, Jamaica 8 October 1946; married (two daughters); died Pasadena, California 8 November 2004.



To win one Olympic medal is an awe-inspiring achievement. After being beaten into the silver medal position in the 100 metres at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics only by a world record, Lennox Miller, probably Jamaica's finest sprinter of his generation, came back four years later to win another Olympic medal, the bronze, in the same event.

Nor did Miller's Olympic odyssey end with his own track career. After he qualified in dentistry from the University of Southern California (USC) and started a successful practice in Pasadena, he helped to coach his elder daughter, Inger, in her early career, and was in Atlanta in 1996 when she won an Olympic relay gold medal, racing in the US 4 x 100m team, making Lennox and Inger the first father-daughter combination of Olympic medallists.

Inger would go on to win the 200m world title in Seville in 1999. She maintained that, while she was growing up, her father rarely made much of his own track career. "We'd have family friends over and we'd watch videos," she said. "And we'd say, 'Oh, my God! That's Dad! Look at his hair!' "

Indeed, many of Lennox Miller's track achievements were marked by comparisons with others: for instance, his fine Olympic silver, running 10.04sec at the high altitude of Mexico City, was surpassed by Jim Hines's 9.95sec world record. Miller's Olympic bronze four years later was notable for it being in a race won by the Ukrainian Valeriy Borzov after two of the American team had, literally, missed the bus to the stadium for the preliminary rounds after they had been given the wrong check-in times by their coach.

And Miller's remaining world record, a share of the 4 x 110 yards relay by his USC student team, who ran 38.6sec in June 1967, is recalled because of the subsequent fame, then notoriety, of the footballer-turned-actor who was the third-leg runner that day: O.J. Simpson.

Miller was the pick of the four USC sprinters, though (the others being Earl McCullouch and Fred Kuller), and so ran the anchor stage, bringing his squad home a second faster than the previous record. The time remains a world best to this day, not least because, even in American colleges, the sport is now largely metric.

Miller's 10.04sec in the 1968 Olympic final remained his college record for 12 years, and in 1969 he established another world record in a rarely contested event, the indoor 100m. In 1970, Miller competed at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where his young Jamaican team-mate Don Quarrie took the 100m gold and Miller the silver.

In many ways, Miller was a trailblazer for other young Jamaicans in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Merlene Ottey, who sought sports scholarships at American universities in order to pursue their education. Not that Miller's scholarship paid all his bills: he worked with USC's groundsman to supplement his meagre resources. "During those days, track and field was the sport that most of us competed in in college before we found gainful employment," Miller said. "In my mind, it was a way to get an education. It wasn't a bragging tool."

Steven Downes

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