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PASSINGS / Cordner Nelson

Co-founder of track publication

November 04, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Cordner Nelson, 91, a writer and editor who co-founded Track & Field News, now considered the authoritative publication on the sport, died Oct. 26 at his home in Carmel after battling cancer, the magazine announced.

A San Diego native born Aug. 6, 1918, Nelson got his first taste of major track and field competition as a teenager while attending the 1932 Summer Olympics at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with his father and younger brother, Bert.

The brothers launched Track & Field News in 1948, with Cordner serving as editor and Bert handling the business side as publisher. Cordner Nelson reported on track meets, wrote about athletic training and techniques and compiled statistics. According to the International Assn. of Athletics Foundation, Track & Field News' lists of world rankings are now recognized as the definitive authority in the sport. Nelson stepped down as editor in 1970 but continued to write for the magazine, which calls itself "the bible of the sport."

Nelson also wrote books related to track and field, including such nonfiction offerings as "The Jim Ryun Story," about the notable U.S. miler, as well as the 1969 novel "The Miler."

Nelson covered every Olympics from 1952 through 2000, plus scores of major international competitions. He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1988.

A graduate of what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Nelson served in the Army during World War II in China, Burma and India.

Nelson studied creative writing in graduate school at the University of Oklahoma for two years after the war until starting Track & Field News.

He is credited with inventing an early "fantasy sports" game based on track and field statistics that was devised at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.


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