Sports Illustrated already had called David Sime “Superman in spikes” for his world record speed on the track and photo finish record in the 100-meter dash at the Rome Olympics in 1960. So it was almost natural that the CIA would look to Sime to serve as its American James Bond when they approached him to entice Russian long jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan to defect during the games.
“It was like being in a spy movie,” the Patterson, New Jersey-born Sime (rhymes with rim) told North Jersey.Com for a 2010 feature. The CIA approached him with a cryptic phone call. Picked him up in a black car. Whisked him to a nondescript building. Briefed Sime on strategy — “Sell him on American greatness” —and turned the runner loose.
“But we didn’t get our man,” Sime told the website. Seems after Sime convinced the athlete to defect a CIA agent spooked him. The Russian feared the CIA agent was a member of the KGB.
Sime, who died at 79 at Mount Sinai Medical Center of complications from cancer, accomplished so many other things.
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“The world’s fastest man,” as sports scribes once dubbed him, was the first man to run the 200-meter dash in 20 second flat. He had world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, 100- and 220-yard dashes and 220-yard hurdles, was a baseball All-American, played football for Duke University during medical school and was drafted by the Detroit Lions (but didn’t play for the team) — all leading into the 1960 Olympics.
There, Sime tied the 100-meter Olympic record of 10.2 seconds. His knee crossed the finish line first but Germany’s Armin Hary’s chest broke through the tape first and was judged the winner. A relay gold medal, which Sime helped earn in a come-from-behind leg that had sportscasters hyperventilating, was taken away when judges ruled a bad exchange earlier in the race disqualified the team.
“Things happen in sports. You move on. You get over it,” Sime said years later in the North Jersey.Com feature.
Sports Illustrated called Dave Sime “Superman in spikes” for his speed on the track and facility for sports.
Sime, who lived on Key Biscayne and later Surfside, moved on to a lucrative career as an ophthalmologist at Miami’s Mercy Hospital where, following a residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, he helped pioneer laser eye surgery. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Sime, who practiced medicine for 42 years, was an early practitioner of intraocular lens implant surgery, the process of replacing cataract-clouded eye lenses with clear plastic.
Among his patients: President Richard Nixon, who had a winter house on Key Biscayne and the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season team from 1972. He was the Dolphins’ team physician that year and remained close friends with golfing buddy, Coach Don Shula and quarterback Bob Griese, for whom he designed corrective glasses.
“The people that he knew. Muhammad Ali was at that 1960 Olympics. The people Dave ran into in his life, you could sit there and hear the stories. He was literally the most interesting man in the world,” said stepson Silvio Estrella.
Sime’s children and grandchildren followed him into the wide world of sports. Daughter Sherrie was a top-ranked tennis player at the University of Virginia. Son Scott was a starting fullback at Duke and daughter Lisa played soccer at Stanford, where she met her husband, Denver Bronco wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who has three Super Bowl rings. Their son Christian won Stanford’s football player of the year honors in 2015.
“He had a big impact on them,” Estrella said. In 1984, Sime was the nervous parent in the stands at a track meet at Tropical Park. Lisa, then 16 and into tennis, ran the 100-yard dash as a Father’s Day gift to her dad. She finished fifth in her first race. Dad was delighted. “After watching him on the television show called The Fastest Man in the World, I have even more respect for him now,” she told the Miami Herald at the time.
Sime also charmed legendary Miami Herald sports columnist Ed Pope in 1991. Sime prescribed eye drops for his son who was just starting grade school, Pope wrote in one of his columns. Pope put drops into his son’s eyes but in the dark of night his wife realized he had reached for drops the veterinarian had prescribed for the family dog. A frantic call was placed to Sime who flashed his equally legendary sense-of-humor and calmed the Popes’ nerves.
“Don’t worry,” Sime told the couple, “unless your son wakes up about 2 a.m. barking.”
Sime is survived by his wife of 17 years, Ileana and his stepchildren Silvio, Racquel; his children with first wife Betty, Sherrie, Scott and Lisa; eight grandchildren and one step-grandchild. Donations can be made to Shriners Hospital for Children. Services will be private.