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Houston McTear (February 12, 1957 – November 1, 2015) was an American sprinter, who emerged from desperate poverty in the Florida Panhandle to become an international track star in the mid-1970s.[1]

Houston McTear
Personal information
BornFebruary 12, 1957
Baker, Florida, U.S.
DiedNovember 1, 2015(2015-11-01) (aged 58)
Stockholm, Sweden
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
ClubMuhammad Ali Track Club
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)60 yd: 6.05
60 m: 6.54
100 yd: 9.30

McTear rated in the top 10 in the 100 meters for the United States from 1975–1980,[2] but he was stronger at shorter distances, including 60 meters. His 1978 world record in the 60 meters (6.54 s) stood up until it was broken by Ben Johnson in 1986.[3][4] McTear ran a 6.38 in 1980, but that mark has been invalidated due to "questionable timing".[5] If that time were to stand, it would still be the second best all time performance. However, his meteoric rise was effectively ended by the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Early promiseEdit

McTear was born in Okaloosa County, Florida. While at Baker High School in Baker, Florida, McTear won state titles in the 100 and 220 yards four times, the only Florida high school athlete ever to do so.[6] He recorded a 9.0 mark in the 100-yard dash as a high schooler at the Florida AA High State Meet in the preliminary heats, in Winter Park, Florida, but the world record time was not recognized because it was hand-timed.[7][8][9] The time remains the NFHS National High School record in the now discontinued event.[10] He was the 1975 High School Athlete of the Year, as selected by Track and Field News.[11]

At the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, McTear ran a 10.16 sec over 100 metres, at the time the fastest ever run under any condition by a Florida high school athlete. It is still No. 3 on the all-time list, only surpassed by Jeffery Demps and Marvin Bracy.[12]

International stardomEdit

McTear qualified for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal in the 100 meters, but an achilles tendon injury suffered in the Olympic Trials forced him to withdraw from the Olympic field.[13][14] He was replaced by Johnny "Lam" Jones, who finished sixth.[15] The American 4 x 100 meter relay team won the gold medal, led by McTear's rival Harvey Glance.[16]

McTear appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1978,[17] and qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics prevented his participation. From there he fell into drug use and was homeless for three years during the 1980s.[18] He attempted a comeback in the early 1990s and won the 60 meters at the Swedish Indoor Championships in 1990 with a time of 6.68s.[19]


McTear was married to the Swedish sprinter Linda Haglund. They lived in Sweden and owned a sports consulting business.[20][21]

McTear died of lung cancer on November 1, 2015, aged 58, in Stockholm. He was survived by four children and his widow, Haglund, who died on November 21, 2015, only three weeks after McTear's death, also from cancer.[22]


McTear was ranked among the best in the world and the US in his event from 1975 to 1980, according to Track and Field News.[23][24]

Year Event World rank US rank
1975 100 meters 10th 3rd
1976 100 meters - 6th
1977 100 meters 2nd 1st
1978 100 meters - 6th
1979 100 meters 4th 3rd
1980 100 meters - 9th


  1. ^ "The Glory Road: Stardom and a shanty are the two worlds of the world's fastest". Miami Herald. January 25, 1976.
  2. ^ "All-Time U.S. Rankings — Men's 100 Meters" (PDF). Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  3. ^ "Johnson, Bubka Set Indoor Records". Washington Post. 1986-01-16.
  4. ^ "All-time men's indoors best 60m". Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  5. ^ "Men's non-legal indoors 60m". Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  6. ^ "High school track: Boone's Marvin Bracy, one of central Florida's best ever". Orlando Sentinel. May 3, 2012. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  7. ^ "Sports brief". The New York Times. May 10, 1975. p. 13.
  8. ^ "All-time men's best 100 yards". Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  9. ^ Habib, Hal (May 10, 2002). "Sprint king, queen had share of potholes". Palm Beach Post. "'Two of the timers had 8.9 and a third 9.0, so we rounded up to 9.0,' said The Orlando Sentinel's Bill Buchalter."
  10. ^ "Boys Track & Field 2014-15 Championship Records" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 29, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  11. ^ Profile,; accessed January 27, 2016.
  12. ^ "Varsity Blog". Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  13. ^ Shapiro, Leonard (February 16, 1978). "McTear's Diet Has Changed, but Not His Victory Rate". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ Fish, Mike (October 22, 1995). "Houston McTear: He was a flash of speed leaping from an impoverished childhood in Florida". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  15. ^ Winitz, Mark. "High School Olympians--Could there be one on your track team?". American Track and Field. Archived from the original on November 1, 2006.
  16. ^ McVay, Ken (March 10, 1999). "Crimson Tide track coach to get another glance at PC". The News Herald. Archived from the original on December 13, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  17. ^ "Off on a record tear". Sports Illustrated. March 6, 1978. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  18. ^ "McTear back on track after disastrous '80s". Toronto Star. CP. January 18, 1992.
  19. ^ "Swedish Indoor Championships". Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  20. ^ Curran, Tom (June 27, 2008). "'I'm Houston McTear!'". Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  21. ^ Humphrey, Kelly (November 2, 2015). "Whatever happened to the 'World's Fastest Human?'". Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  22. ^ "Former world record holder McTear dies". IAAF. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  23. ^ "World Rankings Index--Men's 100 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  24. ^ "U.S. Rankings Index--Men's 100 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2015.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Willie Smith
Track & Field News High School Boys Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Dwayne Evans