Dick Cortright

Dick Cortright

Olympic Cyclist

A berth on the U.S. Olympic Team is a source of pride not only to an athlete, but to his community as well. In 1952, 1956 and 1960, cyclist Dick Cortright honored his hometown of Buffalo with appearances at the summer Olympic Games, becoming the first U.S. cyclist to qualify for the Olympic squad three times in succession. In 1995, Western New York reciprocated, honoring Dick Cortright upon his induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Although a spot on the Olympic Team certainly represents the pinnacle of success for an amateur athlete, that pinnacle is merely the tip of the iceberg for Cortright, one of the prominent cyclists of his time. Dick won the All-Ontario championship in 1949, the 50-mile Tour of Sonnerville, NJ in 1950, the 50-mile U.S. title in 1954 and the one-mile U.S. title in 1955. In 1959, Dick was a member of a four-man team which set a U.S. record in the 4,000 meter pursuit event at the Pan-American Games, and captured its first Pan-American gold medal for the U.S. in that event. He was recognized as the Best All-Around Rider in the U.S. in 1950, a season which he won 26 consecutive races. Incredibly, the last 13 of those victories came after his return from a broken collarbone. Cortright was voted the Buffalo Athlete of the Year for 1959.

Cortright once credited much of his success to having served with a trainer with the six-day professional riders in 1948, during which he learned valuable tips concerning riding, training, and eating. Cortright’s devotion to beneficial training habits enabled him to compete past the age of 30, as an amateur until 1961 and then professionally. Dick followed a strict scientific training program including a high protein diet featuring wheat germ, vitamins, Tiger’s milk, liver, steak and eggs. Dick approached his sport as a craft, meticulously hand-building wheels for bikes painstakingly manufactured to his exacting specifications. His competitive edge was derived from slavish attention to detail. The rubber and silk tires on his racing bikes weighed only three ounces and Dick substituted aluminum washers for steel washers on his wheels to further minimize the weight of his bikes. “Every piece of tubing that goes into the bike is measured to 1/1000 of an inch”, the riding ace once explained. “The angles of the frame also are measured to 1/1000 of an inch. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Dick Cortright is the first cyclist honored by the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, and his induction acknowledges not only the demands of this rigorous and often dangerous sport but also the degree of dominance which Dick exercised over contemporary competitors who simply could not match his high standards.