Jeff Bennett (athlete)

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Jeff Bennett
Personal information
Born (1948-08-29) August 29, 1948 (age 74)
Vinita, Oklahoma
SportTrack and field
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals4th place in decathlon in 1972 Summer Olympics

Jeff Bennett (born 29 August 1948) is a native of Vinita, Oklahoma. [a] He is an American former decathlete who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics.[1]

Athletics in high school and college

Bennet has said that he was inspired into entering track and field competition by watching Olympian athletes performing in the 1960 Olympic games pole vault event. In high school he also became interested in long jumping and running hurdles. but the pole vault was still his favorite event. He won the state title when he was a senior, after coming in second in his sophomore and junior years. After high school, he went on to Oklahoma Christian University (OCU). [b] When he was a sophomore at OCU, he ran the 400-meter hurdles and won the national meet. He also began training to compete in the decathlon. Bennett still holds the OCW records in the 400-meter hurdles and decathlon. Before his graduation in 1970, he was named a four-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American and a member of the NAIA and Oklahoma Christian University Athletics Halls of Fame.[2]

Military service

After graduating from OCU, Bennett accepted a teaching position in Midwest City, though he said he still wanted to compete in decathlons. Instead he received the notice stating he had been drafted into the U.S. Army. Most draftees at that time could expect to be sent to Vietnam for combat duty. Bennett knew that the army had its own track team and was looking for exceptional athletes to represent their service. Bennett jumped at the chance to join the team, since the assignment took him off the list for Vietnam. He worked full-time at athletics, then spent the rest of his duty time as a headquarters filing clerk.[2]

1972 Olympics

His assignment also enabled him to participate in the qualifying trials for the 1972 Olympics. He was able to be on the Munich-bound team. Tragically, a team of heavily-armed terrorists succeeded in invading the venue, where they captured many of the Israeli competitors and their coaches on the day before the decathlon was to start. Bennett later recalled that there was much uncertainty about whether the games would be cancelled altogether.[c]

Later life

Bennett continued to compete after the 1972 Olympics. In the following year, he won the Amateur Athletic Union national decathlon championship. He had wanted to compete in the 1976 Olympics, but injuries prevented him from doing so. After that, he retired from the sport. He spent thirty years in the National Guard, while teaching and coaching in the Oklahoma City school system. Then, he retired from working in the public schools, and went to work for his alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University.


  1. ^ As of April, 2019, Sports Reference now gives Bennett's full name as Jefferson Taft "Jeff" Bennett and says he was born in Taft, Oklahoma.[1]
  2. ^ OCU was then known as Oklahoma Christian College.[2]
  3. ^ Bennett was the smallest competitor in the decathlon event, 5 feet, 8 inches and 152 pounds, but he finished third in the 100-meter run, second in the 400-meter run and won the pole vault, which offset his lower marks in shot put and discus. He finished second in the 1,500-meter run, which pushed him to fourth place in the overall decathlon, just ten points below the cutoff for a bronze medal.[2]


  1. ^ a b Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Jeff Bennett". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Eaton, Doug. "Jeff Bennett." TulsaPeople Magazine. August 2016. Accessed April 1, 2019.