- Category : Sports-Track-and-Field
- Type : GE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 4
American extraordinary athlete and track icon of the '70s, the fastest American in history. Although he set many new records in track, he suffered defeat in the 1972 Olympics. He was the first athlete to sign a contract with the shoe manufacturer Nike, helping to make Nike a household word.
As a kid, Prefontaine spent thousands of hours running through the streets of Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, turning into Track Town USA. With the aggressive mentality of a football player and the muscular build of a wrestler, distance running was the sport at which he excelled. As a high school senior in Coos Bay, OR, he set the national prep record for the two-mile run. Then, at the University of Oregon, he set seven national records and at one time was the fastest American in history at every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters. While he won more than 75 % of his races during his eight-year career, he finished fourth in his only try for an Olympic medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Prefontaine signed a contract with Nike for $5,000 to wear their shoes. In his first race with the new shoes, the company's trademark swooshes (which had been glued to the sides) came loose and fell off. Popular with his peers, Steve helped others and was an outspoken critic of inefficient sports officials. Dedicated to his sport, he was calm and tough, ferocious in his loyalties. A slow learner, he had not much confidence in school. As a star, kids loved him.
After winning a track race in Eugene earlier in the day and then attending a post-meet party, Prefontaine, in the wee hours of 30 May 1975 lost control of his gold MGB convertible coming around a turn and crashed into a rock wall. The sports car flipped over, crushing him. He was 24.
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), as well as the 1995 documentary film "Fire on the Track."