Thirty years ago this week, Tony Dees left an indelible mark on the athletic annals of both the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the state as a whole as well.
Dees, a Pascagoula native, captured the Silver Medal at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain by finishing second in the 110-meter-high hurdles. In doing so, Dees became the first ever native of the Mississippi Coast to win an Olympic Medal. He also became the first male athlete from Ole Miss to ever win an Olympic Medal.
On August 3rd, 1992, Dees finished second to Canada’s Mark McKoy in the Games of the XXV Olympiad. Fellow American Jack Pierce finished third for the Bronze Medal. McKoy clocked in at 13.12 seconds, while Dees finished at 13.24 and Pierce at 13.26.
“I love it, and I hate it,” Dees told United Press International just moments after the race ended. “I’m thrilled to pieces with the silver, but I’m slightly disappointed in myself. But I went from not making the world championship team (in 1991) to an Olympic medal, so I’m happy about that.”
After a standout career at Pascagoula High, Dees signed a track and field scholarship with Ole Miss where he continued his speedy success as a top performer. He ultimately lettered for four years for the Rebels, and won numerous All-Southeastern Conference accolades. He eventually won The Commissioners Award as the outstanding track and field athlete in the SEC.
Dees was inducted into The Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the first-ever class of the Pascagoula High Athletic HOF in 2015.
Upon leaving Oxford, Dees made a name for himself internationally and eventually rose to a number two ranking in the world in 1990 and 1991 in the hurdles and was ranked third overall in 1992 and 1993.
The early 1990’s were considered by many as the “heyday” of hurdle competition around the world. In addition to Dees, some of the top names on the circuit were Roger Kingdom, Greg Foster, Renaldo Nehemiah, Colin Jackson, McKoy, and Pierce,
Kingdom, in fact, had won the past two Gold Medals at the Summer Olympics and was attempting to become the first ever to win three straight. But Dees would have something to say about that.
In 1991, he clocked in at a personal best of 13.05, which at that point made him the fourth fastest hurdler of all time.
In 1990, Dees zipped past Kingdom in six out of 11 races. In 1991, he beat eventual world champion Foster three times (something no one else managed to do in 1991) and sprinted past Nehemiah and Pierce (the runner-up at the World Championships) to win the Grand Prix Finals in Europe.
Dees then earned the right to represent The United States of America not too far from home, as he finished second in the Olympic Trails which took place at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans in June of 1992. Dees finished second in the finals of the trials to Pierce. But more importantly, he would top Pierce about six weeks later in Barcelona.
And in doing so, he earned a spot in the well-documented history books of Mississippi sports.
(Facebook photo: Tony Dees is pictured running at the 1992 Summer Olympics)