Jul 3, 2014, 11:23 AM EDT
Louis Zamperini, a 1936 United States Olympian and WWII prisoner of war, passed away Wednesday at age 97.
Zamperini was the subject of the bestselling book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by “Seabiscut” author Laura Hillenbrand.
A film adaptation, directed by Angelina Jolie and adapted by the Coen brothers, is set to be released on Christmas Day 2014.
In a statement released by Universal Pictures, Zamperini’s family said:
Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge. He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia.
After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.
A world-class distance runner by the age of 19, Zamperini was the youngest member of the U.S. track team at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. He finished eighth, the best American finish, in the 5000-meter race.
Despite not earning a medal, his performance was so impressive that Adolf Hitler requested a one-on-one meeting.
The 1940 Tokyo Olympics were cancelled due to World War II, and in 1941 Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
After his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini and two crewmates spent 47 days on an inflatable raft before being captured by Japanese soldiers. He was held for two and a half years, suffered frequent beatings and torture, and was believed killed in action until his release at the end of WWII in 1945.
Zamperini stayed involved in the Olympic movement for the rest of his life. At age 81 he ran a leg in the Olympic torch relay for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, in 2005 he visited the Berlin Olympic stadium for the first time since competing there nearly 70 years earlier.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:19 AM EDT
Lawrence won gold on the U.S. 4x400m relay team at the 2014 IAAF World Relays.
Jul 28, 2014, 9:32 AM EDT
Neymar played in 2012, but there’s a new obstacle that could keep him out of 2016.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT
Kerri Walsh Jennings notched a milestone victory.
Jul 27, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Search and rescue crews were on the lookout for Jared Pikus and his three children.
Jul 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Kerri Walsh Jennings can hit another career milestone.
Jul 26, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
U.S. Olympic medalists will face Spanish or Brazilian pair Sunday on NBC.
Jul 26, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings in biggest tournament of 2014 in U.S.
Jul 26, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
Bolt will make a rare appearance in the heats of a 4x100m relay at Commonwealth Games.
Jul 26, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT
Beijing gold medalist slated for first bout in August.
Jul 25, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
USOC met with representatives from four finalist cities this week.
Jul 25, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Bahrain runner listed with 1996 birthday may have been born in 1990.
Jul 25, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT
A step forward as skateboarding seeks Olympic inclusion.
Jul 25, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT
Brit can make Olympic history on the track in 2016.
Jul 25, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT
Cain emerged from being boxed in to beat Kenyans.
Jul 24, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT
How it impacts the U.S. and potential Olympic history for Missy Franklin.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
U.S. pair is top seed at biggest tournament in the U.S. this year.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:48 AM EDT
Moment of silence also held.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT
Lingering illness keeps Olympic, World champion from competing.
Jul 24, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT
Australian field hockey player’s photo goes viral.
Jul 23, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT
Hopes to create a “robotic revolution.”
- Brazil’s Olympic coach wants Neymar to play at Rio 2016 0
- U.S. teams sweep World Series of Beach Volleyball (video) 0
- UPDATE: Noelle Pikus-Pace’s brother and his children found in Idaho 0
- Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross make WSOBV final 0
- Usain Bolt arrives in Glasgow, says he’s injury free 0
- Queen photobombs Commonwealth Games athlete selfie 0
- Brazil eyes 27 to 30 medals at Rio Olympics 0
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (56)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (38)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)