Jim Lea (November 6, 1932 – March 27, 2010) was an American sprinter who competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics.[1] Lea represented the US Air Force as a runner.

Lea competed in the 1955 Pan Am Games, where both Lea and Louis Jones beat the previous world records in the 400 meters, with Jones winning the race. Commentators credited these two record-breaking performances to the high altitude in Mexico City, where they competed.[2]

Lea qualified for the Olympics at the Armed Forces track and field championship. Experts at the time considered Lea one of the best prospects for an olympic medal for the United States.[3] Lea once again competed against Jones, and once again Jones won, breaking his own world record in the process. Despite this, both Jones and Lea did poorly in the 1956 Olympics and neither won a medal.[2]

Lea struggled with nerves before competition, and reportedly panicked before every one of them. Before his Olympics competition, he suffered a nervous skin rash.[4]


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Jim Lea". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b Edward Seldon Sears (22 December 2008). Running Through the Ages. p. 257. ISBN 9780786450770. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  3. ^ Roy Terrell (June 25, 1956). "The Armed Forces Make Their Bid". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  4. ^ Marshall Smith (December 3, 1956). "What Drives the Olympic Stars?". Life. p. 131. Retrieved July 5, 2013.