Special Report: 1964 Olympian says it takes heart as well as hard work to get to the Olympics


MERCEDES, Texas (ValleyCentral) — To get to the Olympics, it takes practice, sweat, and training. For 1964 Olympian Billy Gene Pemelton, this year’s games in Tokyo are bringing back memories of how he got to the Olympics. 

Pemelton said he would block out the noise when it was time for him to perform the pole vault.

“When I would step on the runway well, I was calm as can be,” said Pemelton.

He said when he first learned about the Olympics he remembered it was because of hearing about Bobby Morrow’s accomplishment. 

“I remember, I guess was in the eighth grade when I read in the paper Bobby Morrow wins three gold medals from San Benito,” said Pemelton. 

He went on to follow in Morrow’s footsteps, who interestingly enough lived about 20 miles from his home.

“My mother knew his mother and his brother came and talked to me about going to Abilene Christian because that’s a Church of Christ school and I went there,” said Pemelton. 

The training was something Pemelton had been familiar with after dominating his high school records but he said when he was accepted into Abilene Christan, the same university Morrow went to, he realized that his training was tougher. 

“I remember even in high school like 2 to 3 days out of the week we would run around the whole track, and we would have to do it two or three times,” said Pemelton. 

He said he constantly pushed himself to grow so he could improve in his sport. 

“A lot of my friends would say, ‘Pemelton slow down, Pemelton slow down’. Well, I didn’t want to slow down because you’re not going to get any better if you don’t push yourself,” he said. 

At the Olympic trials, he placed in the top three, qualifying for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. 

“When I jumped it and made that 16 feet then and landed in the pit, I said oh Lord why me.” Pemelton describes what went through his mind at that moment, “I remember I won’t forget that feeling that was a why me Lord because that was a very proud feeling to have.

After competing in the Olympics and spending 29 days in Tokyo, Billy said his life did not slow down when he made it back to the states. 

“After the Olympics, I got invited to track meets in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. I jumped in Madison Square Garden,” said Pemelton. 

Pemelton said for the athletes competing in the 2020 Olympic games, which happens to be in Tokyo and for those athletes that aspire to go to the Olympics, to not give up. 

“Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you’re not doing as well as you think, don’t give up just keep going. Keep going to get there,” he said.

He added how receiving recognition from your accomplishment is a great feeling but above that people should stay true to who they are.

“To be a good person. That’s one of the main things and be honest,” said Pemelton.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Community Stories