1956 Olympian Tom died Oct. 31
posted on 11/05/2012

1956 U.S. Olympian William "Bill" Tom, who was both a gymnast and gymnastics coach, died on Oct. 31 at the age of 89.

Tom won the elite vault title at the 1949 National AAU Championships, where he also placed in the floor exercise and pommel horse. He was a member of the Los Angeles Turners Team that won several national team titles, and he was a Southern California regional all-around champion. At the age of 33, he was the oldest member of the 1956 Olympic Team. He was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1992.

Following the Olympics, Tom received a Fulbright Award, serving as an instructor at Normal University in Taiwan from 1957-58. He then accepted a position at a Los Angeles junior college, where he was an instructor and coach for more than 30 years. He also opened the Lincoln Heights High School gymnasium two nights a week and former and prospective Olympians often trained there.

Born March 15, 1923, in San Francisco, Tom spent his early years in China and returned to the USA at age 15 due to the Japanese bombardment of China in the late 1930s. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he participated in gymnastics at Los Angeles Poly Technical High School. He attended Los Angeles City College for one year before going into military service for World War II. After the military, he graduated for Occidental College with a Bachelor of Arts. He taught school for seven years and went on to earn his Master of Arts at California State University – Los Angeles.

In addition to gymnastics, Tom participated in several other sports: diving, winning a Southern California junior college title; surfing; table tennis, winning both national and international competitions; and tennis, where he won a number of age group titles. At the 2009 National Senior Olympic Championships in Palo, Alto, Calif., Tom was 86 and won his age-group single and doubles title, as well as another age-group doubles title.

Tom is survived by his ex-wife Nancy; two daughters, Lisa and Mai Ling; son, Tracy; and six grandchildren.

-- Information courtesy of Abie Grossfeld

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