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Olympic medalist Khalil Taha passes away

Khalil Taha, Lebanese bronze medalist in Greco Roman wrestling at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, died July 27, 2020, from kidney disease.

Khalil Taha
Taha was married to Whede Walker-Taha who preceded him in death. They had four children and raised them in Allen Park, Michigan. He had been a resident of Venice, Florida since 1981.

Born in Beirut, Taha was 14 years old when he started to wrestle. At 19, he was the first Olympian for the country of Lebanon to take a medal, winning the bronze medal for Greco Roman wrestling at the 1952 Olympics.

Lebanon sent nine athletes to the 1952 Summer Ganes to participate in four sports: wrestling, weightlifting, boxing and shooting. The Lebanese flag flew twice during those games, first when Taha won the bronze medal in the Greco Roman welterweight division. And, then later that same day for the silver medal won by his dear friend, Zakaria Chihab for the Greco Roman bantamweight division.

One of the nine athletes included Khalil's older brother, Safi Taha. Safi represented Lebanon, as well in the 1948 Summer Olympics where he finished joint-sixth in the Featherweight division.

Two brothers from such a small country in the same Olympics, most certainly was remarkable at the time.

Khalil represented Lebanon and the Arab world taking first place seven consecutive times at the Greco Roman Wrestling Lebanese National Championships from 1949 to 1955 all in the 160.5-pound weight class.

In 1951, he was runner-up at the Mediterranean Nationals in Alexandria, Egypt.

Then in 1953, Taha returned to Alexandria to compete in the Arab World Games, where he won first place bringing back another win for Lebanon.

His further accomplishments included earning a gold medal win for Lebanon at the 1954 World Games in Budapest, Hungary, again in the welterweight division.

Khalil moved to the United States in 1955 joining his brother, Safi Taha in Dearborn, Michigan.

He was proud to represent the United States and kept his Greco Roman career going in 1957, placing first at the AAU Nationals in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

That was his second consecutive AAU Nationals gold medal after winning his first in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Taha joined the Ford Motor Wrestling Center that later became the Michigan Wrestling Club. He remained a part of that organization from 1958 to 1982 not only as a wrestler, but also as a coach.

Taha was quite the popular coach. Because of his immense talent, American Greco-Roman coach Joe Scalzo asked him to be his top assistant in the pre-Olympic training camp for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Fast forward to 1962, and Khalil would be asked to be an assistant coach on the U.S. World Greco-Roman Team by coach Dean Rockwell. Two years later, he became coach of the Olympic Greco-Roman Team. Khalil would again coach in 1979 the Senior World Greco-Roman team in San Diego, California. In 1987, he turned to younger wrestlers after Jerry Wagner, who had wrestled under Khalil, asked him to coach the cadet age division of the U.S. Greco-Roman Wrestling Team. Taha and Wagner became the first American coaches to win a world championship with a U.S. Greco-Roman Team. The event took place in Collingwood Ontario, Canada.

In 2005, Taha was recognized for his contributions to the sport of wrestling and was inducted into the AAU Hall of Fame. And, in 2016 he was given the Lifetime Devotion to Wrestling Award at the Michigan Chapter National Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony.

Khalil was a fireman in Beirut, who followed his dream and became a renowned wrestling icon throughout the world. He was honored to represent Lebanon his birth country and honored to give back to the United States of America. He never forgot his beginnings, no matter how successful his achievements and always striving to be better. Keeping the Olympic motto close to his heart.

CITIUS - ALTIUS -FORTIUS. Faster, Stronger, Higher. Throughout his career, he won a total of 45 medals.

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