At 6'3" and 185 pounds, Tommie Smith had the ideal build for a long sprinter, with trademark-accelerations down the stretch that made him one of the most versatile sprinters in history. With all-time bests of 10.1 seconds for 100 meters, 19.83 seconds for 200 meters and 44.5 seconds at 400 meters, Smith still ranks high on the entire world all-time performance lists.
While a student at San Jose State, Smith was coached by Bud Winter. Smith began making waves in winning the national collegiate 220 yard title in 1967 before adding the Amateur Athletic Union furlong crown soon after. He repeated as AAU 200 meter champion in 1968, making the summer U.S. Olympic team for the Mexico City Games. In the 200 meter Olympic final, Smith blazed home in a world's record time of 19.83 seconds -- even while decelerating towards the finish line with fists of triumph held high as he realized a gold medal run into history.
During his career, Smith set seven individual world records and was a member of several world record relay teams while a student athlete at San Jose State.
During the Olympic medal ceremony for the record breaking men's 200m dash, both 1st place (gold) and 3rd place (bronze) medalists held up a black-gloved fist during the playing of their home national anthem. A silent gesture in protest of the ongoing civil rights injustices, primarily back home in America. In addition to the iconic gesture made by the two American athletes, was a silent gesture made by the 2nd place (silver) medalist from Australia, Peter Norman. The civil rights struggle in America, after all, was a struggle shared in many other parts of the world.
Dr. Smith, as the first place and record-breaking medalist, has been asked numerous times, what he was doing and/or thinking in that moment. His response - “Praying.” “I was praying underneath the bleachers, I was praying on the walk up to the victory stand, and the entire time I was up there.” It was not a "Black Power Salute" as has been written on numerous occasions. It was a "human rights salute" more than anything else.
Dr. Smith has been featured in such major national publications as Sports Illustrated, Sports Newsweek, Cleveland, Score, Ebony, and Track & Field News among others. Innumerable newspapers and foreign magazines and audio/video media entities continue to seek him out for their features, training products and presentations.
Dr. Smith continues to travel throughout various European and Asian nations, conducting seminars, clinics and delivering speeches in those locations, as well as on domestic college campuses.