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Remembering Steve Prefontaine: An American track and field legend (Includes interview)

When asked about what inspired and motivated Prefonatine as an athlete, Linda said, “His inspiration was deep in his being. He wanted to push himself to be the best at what he did. He loved competing. Competition scares some people. Not Steve. He loved to compete in everything. It feels good to win. The more you win the more you feel good. It’s like a drug.”

She revealed that she has been working with an artist, in an effort to create a bronze statue of Steve. “They will be available on a limited basis and are approximately two feet tall. I started a business called Tour de Pre. It offers one day tours of the Coos Bay Area that includes places where Steve ran, the beaches, Prefontaine Track, the Pre Museum, and his final resting place,” she said.

Linda continued, “I am also trying to launch a running camp for high school runners this summer. They can come to Coos Bay and train where Steve trained. They will be running in his footsteps, thus experiencing the same things he did when he ran in his home town where it all started.”

Steve was posthumously inducted into the following Hall of Fames: Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, and the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame, among many other honors. “He wasn’t inducted into these different Hall of Fames until after he died, so he never got to experience those honors. I’m sure he would be very proud of being acknowledged for his hard work and success,” Linda said.

Linda also shared that technology has changed everything about the world we live in these days including track and field, and sports. “Equipment and coaching techniques have evolved,” she said. “Running isn’t just about the rawness of running. It has become very scientific.”

Prefontaine’s life story was the subject of two dramatic films: Prefontaine in 1997 starring Jared Leto as Prefontaine, and Without Limits a year later, in 1998, with Billy Crudup as Prefontaine.

On the legacy of her brother, Steve, Linda concluded, “Steve was a small town kid who lived his dream by working very hard and didn’t let anything get in his way to accomplish his goals. He was a pure runner who was willing to risk everything to make his sport better for ALL other track and field athletes.”

Veteran pole vaulter Bubba Sparks remarked, “In my opinion, Steve Prefontaine was the athletics equivalent of what James Dean was to the acting world. A phenomenal, almost unexplained instant legend, who with a quiet manner burned white hot in the lives of so many. Though both left us way premature and tragically, and they will never be forgotten.”

The Prefontaine Classic has been held in Eugene, Oregon, annually in Steve’s honor, ever since 1975. In last year’s Pre-Classic, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who was the winner of the pole vault event and subsequent world champion, noted that the event “sets a tone for what all American athletes who have big goals should strive for.” Kendricks also stated that the meeting’s namesake, Steve Prefontaine, “knew what it meant to put everything on the line, so it is cool to say I did the same.”

In his remarkable career in track and field, Prefontaine was the winner of 120 out of the 153 races, and the runner never lost a collegiate (NCAA) track race that was longer than one mile at the University of Oregon. At the time of his death (May 30, 1975), Prefontaine every American outdoor track record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters belonged to Steve Prefontaine (all eight records).

To learn more about Steve Prefontaine’s story and legacy, check out the official Prefontaine Productions website.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 19,900 original articles over the past 16 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a seven-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past three years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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