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From humble roots growing up in a coal mining camp in Wise County, Virginia, Ollan Cassell built a successful, inspiring career in track and field.

After first attending East Tennessee State, he rose to prominence at the University of Houston, then continued his athletic career while serving in the U.S. Army. The pinnacle of athletic success saw him team up with Mike Larrabee, Ulis Williams and Henry Carr to capture the 4×400-meter relay gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, with Cassell running the first leg of the race. (Perhaps the quartet’s Olympic gold was foreshadowed by their performance in an U.S.-USSR dual meet that July at Los Angeles Coliseum, where they beat a Russian foursome by nearly 55 meters to the finish line.)

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