Born: April 30, 1905 – Wilson, KS
Died: September 21, 1986 – Halstead, Kansas
Graduated: Wilson (KS) H.S., 1924
One of the world’s great track and field athletes of the 1920s, John Henry Kuck was an Olympic champion and set over 100 records in shot put, javelin and discus during his remarkable career.
Kuck was born and raised near Wilson, Kansas, and set national high school records in the shot put, discus and javelin while at Wilson High School, including a heave of 56’–8 ¾” in the shot put in 1924. He enrolled at Kansas State Teachers College (Emporia State University) where he became the 1926 national collegiate champion and world record holder in both the shot put and javelin. After his sophomore year, Kuck dropped out of college and joined the Kansas City Athletic Club and later the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Kuck was one of the first men ever to record distances of over 50 feet with the 16–pound shot, 214 feet with the javelin and 140 feet with the discus. Kuck concluded his outstanding career by winning the gold medal in the shot at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam despite nursing a broken left ankle. His effort of 52’–0 ¾” broke the previous world record by almost 13 inches. All his marks were considered phenomenal for the era in which he competed.
He was an assistant track and field coach at the University of Kansas (1929), but after his days of competing were over, Kuck worked in the timber business and operated a resort in Idaho.
Kuck has also been inducted into the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame, Emporia State Hall of Fame and Drake Relays Hall of Fame.