KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An 8-year-old Archie San Romani nearly lost his right leg when doctors considered amputation after he was run over by a truck.
Instead, he took up running as part of his rehabilitation, a decision that led him into the world record books and the 1,500-meter final at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
San Romani finished fourth in 3 minutes and 50.0 seconds, missing a medal by 0.8 seconds, behind New Zealand’s Jack Lovelock (3:47.8), fellow U.S. competitor Glenn Cunningham (3:48.4) and Italy’s Luigi Beccali (3:49.2).
During a match race two months after the Olympics, San Romani defeated Lovelock — the only runner to do so, according to his New York Times obituary.
Prior to the Olympics, San Romani, who was born in Frontenac, Kansas, won the mile at the Kansas state track and field championships in 1932.
He went on to compete at Emporia State University and became a fierce rival of fellow Kansas native and Olympic silver medalist Glenn Cunningham.
Cunningham and San Romani faced each other 28 times in races with each beating the other 14 times.
While at Emporia State, San Romani won an NCAA championship in the mile in 1935 and set a meet record in winning another NCAA title in the 1,500 meters in 1936.
He also ran the anchor leg for the Hornets’ distance medley relay team, which set a world record in 1936.
San Romani also was part of a world-record four-mile relay (17:17.2) with Charles Hornbostel, Eugene Venzke and Glenn Cunningham during an August 1936 race in London.
San Romani set the world record in 2,000 meters (5:16.8) during a race in Helsinki in August 1937.
He won an indoor national title at the AAU championships and was selected as the Most Outstanding Italian Athlete in the United States by the Italian-American League that year, according to his Emporia State Hall of Fame bio.
His son, Archie San Romani Jr., also was part of a world-record relay in the event (16:09.0) in May 1962 while at the University of Oregon.
San Romani Sr., who studied music at Emporia State and later became a music teacher, is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame (1954) and was inducted into the ESU Sports Hall of Fame (1982) and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (2004).
The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.
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