“Forgotten Olympian” to hit the big screen

Film features two-time 1960 gold medalist and Union City resident Otis Davis

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Raul Barcelona is directing a documentary on Union City's very own Olympian.
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Otis Davis has been living in Union City since the 1990s.
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Raul Barcelona is directing a documentary on Union City's very own Olympian.
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Otis Davis has been living in Union City since the 1990s.

Union City filmmakers are in the post-production phase of “The Forgotten Olympian,” a documentary detailing the life of Otis Davis, who won two gold medals in the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics. Davis, a resident for almost 30 years, is also working on an autobiography detailing his Olympics experience and more.

Davis was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1932. After serving four years in the Air Force during the Korean War, he went on to study at the University of Oregon, joining the track team. His coach was Bill Bowerman, founder of Nike.

Though Nike reportedly suggests that Davis was the second person in history to try a pair of Bowerman’s shoes, Davis maintains he was the first to don a pair, running for University of Oregon.

The global stage

After his college track-and-field career, Davis made the 1960 U.S. Olympic track team, setting a world record in the 400-meter dash. He was the first in history to break the 45-second barrier in that event in a photo finish.

He defeated German runner Carl Kaufmann, who managed to get his nose in the lead through a full horizontal dive, but his torso remained too far behind, according to judges.

Davis took home the gold medal and a world record for his performance in the 4 x 400 meter relay, clocking in at 3:02.2

Heading East

After his memorable Olympic run, Davis became a high school teacher, certified in Health and Physical Education. For a number of years, he held teaching positions in Oregon. In 1991, he moved to the East Coast, living in Jersey City for a few years before settling down in Union City.

For the better part of two decades, Davis has served as a Board of Education trustee, a teacher, truancy officer, and coach, deeply involved with athletics and physical education programs.

He is the founder and organizer of the Union City Mayor’s Cup, a yearly track-and-field event for local kids.

Davis also served for several years as president of the Tri-State Olympics Alumni Association. Through that group, he created the Sports Challenge, geared toward providing sporting events for children with special needs.

At almost 87, Davis is still going strong, working in the school system, mentoring young athletes and inspiring students.

A local crew

Almost everyone involved in getting Davis’s story to a big-screen premiere is a Union City local. The hometown effort is being directed by Raul Barcelona, and produced by Commissioner Lucio Fernandez in collaboration with local production company MeLu Films.

Fernandez said that the crew is hoping to premier the film later this year.

In the meantime, Davis is making progress on his autobiography. Fernandez is assisting with the book along with Union City’s historian, Gerard Karabin.

For more on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com, or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.