100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Clyde Coffman, decathlon

Clyde Coffman.jpg
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 09:00:21-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The city of Ford in western Kansas has never had more than 382 people in any U.S. census, but it did produce an Olympic decathlete.

Clyde Coffman was born in Ford in 1911 and started with the University of Kansas track and field team as a pole-vault specialist.

Alongside fellow Jayhawks standout James Bausch, Coffman qualified for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics with a third-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Another athlete from Lawrence — Wilson “Buster” Charles, a star football and basketball player at Haskell Indian Nations University — finished second at the Olympic Trials.

Coffman went on to finish seventh in Los Angeles, though he did set an Olympic record in the pole vault.

Meanwhile, Bausch cruised to the gold in world-record fashion and Charles, who set an Olympic decathlon record in the long jump, finished fourth and missed a medal by less than 46 points.

Coffman was the only one of the three U.S. competitors to take part in the 1936 Olympic Trials, where he finished fourth — one spot from a return trip to the Games.

While at KU, Coffman tied for fourth as a sophomore in the pole vault at the 1931 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

He was inducted into the KU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

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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