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Steve Prefontaine

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Steve Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner. He competed in the 1972 Olympics. He once held the American record in seven different distance track events. He died in May 1975 at the age of 24 in an automobile accident.

Steve Prefontaine was born on January 25, 1951. His father Raymond Prefontaine, was a carpenter. He had two sisters, Neta and Linda, and they all grew up in a house built by their father. He began to realize he was able to compete well in longer distance races in his physical education. He began high school at Marshfield High School in 1965. Steve Prefontaine was recruited by several top track programs across the United States. But he went to the University of Oregon. He trained under coach Bill Bowerman. Following his collegiate career at Oregon, Prefontaine prepared for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

In the spring of 1975, a group of traveling Finnish athletes (without Lasse Virén) took part in an NCAA Prep meet at Hayward Field in Eugene. While returning from the party shortly after midnight crashed his car. A nearby resident was first on the scene and reported he found Prefontaine flat on his back. He was still alive at the moment. By the time medics arrived, he was pronounced dead. At the time he was 24 years old.

The Eugene Register-Guard called his death “the end of an era”. He was the most popular athlete in Oregon at the time. Steve Prefontaine‘s life story has been detailed in two dramatic films 1997’s Prefontaine starring Jared Leto as Prefontaine and 1998’s Without Limits starring Billy Crudup as Prefontaine.

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