During the summer of 1948, after completing his junior year at UCLA, Craig Dixon ’49 competed in the Olympic trials for the London summer games. “My entire running career was in preparation for the trial,” he explains, “and it was the most nervous I had ever been.” Dixon earned his place on the 1948 U.S. Olympic track and field team by placing second at his trial in the 110 meter high hurdles. Dixon would achieve legendary success at the 1948 games held later that summer. He earned the bronze medal in the 110 meter high hurdles in a photo finish. With his victory, the United States completed its first ever sweep of this event with three Americans standing on the awards podium.
Dixon began his running career at Fairburn Grammar School as a high jumper and continued the sport at Emerson Junior High School. “In high school, the track coach had us all try high hurdles. I had a natural ability for it, and the coach said to me, ‘you are now a hurdler.’” Dixon ran track throughout his time at University High School, and in his senior year he led the school to their first All City Championship. After graduation he was accepted into the Naval Aviation Cadet (V-5) program, and was sent to Occidental College. In 1945, when World War II was winding down, they closed the program and he was transferred to UCLA’s Naval College Training (V-12) program. In 1947 he was promoted to company commander of the UCLA V-12, and finished his education on the GI Bill.
Dixon also dominated in the high and low hurdles while attending UCLA. He was the first person to run the 120 yard high hurdles under 14 seconds, and he tied Jesse Owens’ world record of 22.5 seconds in the 220 yard low hurdles. He also ran at all of UCLA’s dual meets and relay invitational meets. Dixon recalls, “The invitationals were the biggest races I had ever run, with about 50,000 people watching.” He held every record in both the high and low hurdles in every UCLA dual meet, and held every record in the high hurdles in every relay invitational meet as well.
Dixon was “euphoric” upon earning his spot on the U.S. Olympic team. “A special thing about the 1948 summer games was that the entire U.S. team traveled on the USS America, a luxury liner. We spent 7 days on the high seas traveling to London, and I trained by running around the deck.” Once the ship arrived in the United Kingdom, he and the U.S. team were transported to the Olympic village in Uxbridge. “There I got to meet other athletes from around the world. The foreign athletes were jealous of the Americans because our food was shipped over from the U.S. and, unlike theirs, was outstanding” he recalls.
“Marching in with the American team during the opening ceremony was incredible,” Dixon says. “I do not think I will ever be able to explain how awesome that feeling was. There were 85,000 people in the stands at Wembley Stadium as we paraded around the track.”
After his success at the Olympics, Dixon returned to UCLA to finish his education and to compete. As a senior, he was undefeated in four national titles: the NCAA and AAU high and low hurdles, including 59 consecutive victories in the U.S. and Europe. He ranked number one in the world. That same year the Los Angeles Times honored him as the most outstanding athlete in the country. In January 1950 he was invited to participate in two major indoor track meets in New York, the Melrose Games and the New York Athletic Club Invitational at Madison Square Garden. He won the gold in the 60 yard high hurdles at both venues.
In 1953, Wilbur Johns ’25, athletic director for UCLA, hired Dixon as the first full-time assistant track coach to Elvin “Ducky” Drake. He also was head freshman track and cross-country coach and implemented a fall track program. Dixon was the primary force recruiting the athletes who would win UCLA’s first national NCAA track and field championship in 1956. Two of his most successful recruits were Rafer Johnson ’59 and C.K. Yang ’64.
In 1981 Dixon received the Los Angeles Bicentennial Sports Achievement Award as one of 200 outstanding athletes to hail from Los Angeles. In 1984, he was chosen as the training site director for the track and field venue at UCLA’s Drake Stadium in preparation for the upcoming 1984 Olympic Games. In 1985, he was voted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame.
Dixon later left coaching to go into advertising. He retired from the industrial publishing division of the Dun and Bradstreet Corporation in 1987. In January 1988 he opened his own publisher’s representative firm, selling industrial advertising on the west coast. He retired in 2004.
Dixon now lives in Westwood with his wife, Jan, of 24 years. He looks back fondly on the 1948 London games and always looks forward to the Olympics.