Dick Cortright, a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic bicycling team, died Friday in the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Cheektowaga, after a struggle with cancer. He was 79.
Mr. Cortright, renowned as a sprinter, raced in the Olympics in 1952, 1956 and 1960. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame.
He told a Buffalo News reporter in 1960 that he never owned a regular bicycle. Ever since he was 11, he just had racing bikes.
"I kept stealing my brother's bike and he wasn't very happy about that," he said in 1995, when he as inducted into the the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. "So my dad finally got 20 bucks together and got a little racing clunker and started me on my way. We'd go over to Humboldt Park every night to train."
By the time he was 20, he was a national amateur champion. He won prestigious road races in record times. He won 18 major races in 1949. The following year he was named Best All-Around Rider in the United States, breaking records as he won 13 consecutive races on the amateur cycling circuit, then followed a broken collarbone with 13 more victories.
Drafted into the Army in 1951, he was stationed in Germany and advanced to corporal, then was reassigned back to Fort Dix, N.J., in 1952 so he could train and qualify for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
Mr. Cortright suffered numerous injuries through the years, including another broken collarbone in 1957 and numerous broken bones when he was hit by a car while training for the Pan-American Games in 1959.
Despite his doctor's warning, he went back to ride with the U.S. 4,000-meter pursuit team that set a record in winning the gold medal in the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago. Named Buffalo's Athlete of the Year in 1960, he went on to be a professional six-day bicycle racer from 1961 to 1966.
Born in Buffalo, he was a graduate of Kensington High School and first worked as a railroad brakeman, then as a construction worker and an insurance salesman. After his racing career ended, he became a clerk with the U.S. Postal Service. He retired in the early 1990s.
Over the years, he stayed within a few pounds of his 177-pound riding weight, mostly working out indoors and on a stationary bike.
Surviving are his wife of 55 years, the former Rosemary Pralow; and two daughters, Cindy Rose Drust of Cheektowaga and Cathy Lynn Scott.
Funeral services will be private.