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Legendary United States Olympian Has Passed Away At 74

A general photo of the Olympic rings at the Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 01: A general view is seen of the Olympic rings in the Olympic Park on August 1, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Lee Evans, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 metres and a former world record holder in two events, passed away on Wednesday. He was 74.

Evans reportedly suffered a stroke last week while in Nigeria. His family confirmed that he was unconscious in a hospital as of Sunday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Evans is best known for winning the gold medal in the 400 m at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City at the age of 21. He became the first runner to break 44 seconds in the event, posting a time of 43.86 seconds as a part of an American sweep of the podium. He went on to win another gold as the anchor of the 4 x 400 m relay, where he also set the world record.

A California native, Evans was a part of “Speed City” at San Jose State University, alongside fellow Olympic teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos. To this day, he remains one of the best American sprinters of all-time.

Although Evans was most known for his performance on the track, he was also an outspoken activist. He was a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights and also advocated for racial justice before and during the 1968 Games.

After Smith and Carlos were kicked out of the Olympics for their raised-fist demonstration on the medal stand, Evans reportedly wanted to withdraw from the 400 m. However, Smith and Carlos convinced their college teammate to still enter the race where he went on to win the gold medal.

During the victory celebration, Evans, Larry James and Ron Freeman, who won the silver and the bronze for the United States, all donned black berets in support of the Black Panther Party. They chose to remove the caps for the national anthem.

“After what Tommie and John did, there was a lot of commotion,” Evans said in 2017, per NBC Sports. “We had meetings, and yelling, but it turns out, we stuck to our guns.”