Rolland Romero was the youngest member of the 1932 US Olympic team and the world-record holder in his event at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
I n the 1930s, two-time Olympian Rolland Romero was one of the world’s best in the hop, step, and jump (now called the triple jump) category. As a seventeen-year-old, he was the youngest member of the 1932 US Olympic team and was the world-record holder in the event when he competed at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Born on August 21, 1914, in Welsh, Louisiana, Romero attended Welsh High School. There he excelled in both football and track. In 1931 he enrolled at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he was coached by Clark Shaughnessy in football and by Tad Gormley in track.
It was Gormley who switched Romero from the hurdles after seeing Romero outdistance everyone else on the team in the broad jump as well as the hop, step, and jump. Gormley noticed some irregularity in Romero’s takeoff and asked him which foot he used, to which Romero replied, “Either one. It doesn’t make any difference to me.” When asked to prove it, Romero jumped more than 22 feet on his right foot and then more than 22 feet on his left foot in the broad jump.
Competing in the hop, step, and jump at the 1932 Southern Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships, Romero posted a jump of 49 feet, 10 1/2 inches, a meet record and the best performance by an American in the event in nearly twenty years. At the National AAU meet in Palo Alto, California, he finished with a jump of 48 feet, 10 1/4 inches, good enough for second place and a spot on the US Olympic team.
Romero broke the 1935 National AAU meet record with a jump of 50 feet, 4 7/8 inches, a mark that stood until 1941.
In 1936 Romero briefly held the world record with a jump over 52 feet at the Texas Centennial Games in Dallas, but that mark was bettered by Naoto Tajima of Japan in the Olympics six weeks later with a jump of 52 feet, 5 15/16 inches. Romero actually outjumped Tajima, but his jump was later disallowed when it was determined that he had fouled by overstepping the takeoff board, thereby putting him in fifth place. Romero’s two teammates in the event at the 1936 Olympics also were from Louisiana; Dudley Wilkins of Crowley finished eighth and Billy Brown of Baker was seventeenth.
Romero was a four-year All-American at Loyola. He returned to Welsh after graduation.
Romero was inducted into the Loyola University Hall of Fame (1964), the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (1974), and the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame (1988).
He died on November 25, 1975.