100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Larry Young, track and field

Germany Munich 1972 Summer Olympics
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 01, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The only U.S. athlete ever to win a medal at the Olympics in racewalking since 1920 is a Fort Osage graduate and internationally renowned sculptor.

Larry Young was born in February 1943 in Independence and set a school record in the mile as a senior 1961 at Fort Osage.

He joined the U.S. Navy after high school — where he learned to cast bronze for ship repairs, a skill that led to his career as an acclaimed sculptor — and initially settled in the Los Angeles area, where he discovered the sport of racewalking.

It involves walking fast, while maintaining a straight support leg and foot contact with the ground at all times.

Little did he know that racewalking would lead to Olympic glory, but Young won bronze medals at the 1968 Mexico City Games and the 1972 Munich Games in the 50-kilometer racewalk — the longest track and field event in the Olympics, a distance of more than 31 miles.

Germany Munich 1972 Summer Olympics
Gold medal winner Bernd Kannenberg of West Germany, waves during the awarding ceremony of the 50 kilometers Summer Olympic Games walk event on September 4, 1972, in Munich, Germany. At left, silver medal winner Veniamin Soldatenko, USSR, bronze medal winner Larry Young of the United States, at right.

Young also finished 10th in the 20-kilometer racewalk at the 1972 Olympics.

Additionally, he won two gold medals at the Pan American Games in the 50-kilometer racewalk (1967, 1971) and a bronze in the 20-kilometer (1975).

Young won 30 U.S. racewalking championships overall, including all eight U.S. national championships at 50 kilometers that he entered.

He won eight different national racewalking titles at distances from 2 to 100 miles in 1972 and set U.S. records in the 50-kilometer and 100-mile events during his career.

Young was injured in 1976 but still finished fourth in the 20-kilometer racewalk at the U.S. Olympic Trials. There was no 50-kilometer race that Olympic year.

He did not compete at the 1980 Olympic Trials because of the U.S. boycott.

During his Olympic career, Young enrolled at Columbia (Missouri) College, where he received the only full-ride scholarship for racewalking in the U.S. and studied sculpture.

He has placed more than 50 outdoor sculptures nationally and abroad, including several in New York and Los Angeles as well as installations in Japan and Australia.

After college and a two-year sculpture study abroad in Italy, Young and his wife, Candace, settled in the Columbia area, where he operates his own foundry and creates his sculptures.

Young is a featured artist and charter member of Art of the Olympians, which was created by Al Oerter.

Young was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

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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