• At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, gymnast Bart Conner attended the opening ceremonies, where he saw thousands of people smiling and waving flags. After the Olympics, he received a letter from a young girl, who asked, “Did you see me that day in the Los Angeles Coliseum? I was the one smiling and waving the flag.” Mr. Conner says that in fact he did see her: “If only for an instant, I actually did feel and ‘see’ every face.” In addition, looking around at the thousands of people in the Coliseum, Mr. Conner said to fellow gymnast Jim Hartung, “Wouldn’t it be great to spot somebody you knew in this mob?” At that moment, Mr. Hartung said, “Bart, look. There’s your mom.” Mr. Conner did look, and he saw his parents in the crowd.
• On April 10, 1896, a Greek named Spyridon Louis won the marathon race at the Olympics held in Greece. He had trained by running after his mule as he carried water from village to village. After winning, he became famous, but he declined to take advantage of his celebrity even though his fellow Greeks offered him such things as free dinners and free haircuts. However, when King George I of Greece asked if there was anything he would like to have as a reward for winning the marathon, he replied, “Yes, please, a cart and a horse so I won’t have to run after my mule any more.”
• Winning an Olympic gold medal can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. After winning her gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, Tara Lipinski fell asleep so soundly that the next morning, Megan Faulkner was able to braid her hair without waking her. In fact, Tara was so soundly asleep that she slept through a moderate earthquake. When a reporter asked her what she thought about the earthquake, Tara replied, “What earthquake?”
• The life of a world-class gymnastics coach may not be what you think it is. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Mary Lou Retton, who was born in West Virginia but was coached by Bela Karolyi in Houston, Texas, won the gold medal in the all-around. Mr. Karolyi, however, was not the coach of the United States team, so he was not given a pass into the Olympic Village. For part of the Olympics, he slept in the hotel room of a friend, but once his friend left LA, he slept in a car.
• The finals in the broad jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, featured a fierce competition between the American Jesse Owens and the German Luz Long. During the finals, they tied the Olympic record once and beat the record five times, but when the contest was over, Mr. Owens held both the new Olympic record and a gold medal. In defeat, Mr. Long was a good sportsman. He congratulated Mr. Owens, and the two athletes became friends.
• After ice skater Peggy Fleming won her gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games, she was given both her medal and a kiss by Avery Brundage, the aged chair of the International Olympic Committee, who was vigilant in making sure that the athletes participating in the Olympics were amateurs. After Ms. Fleming got her medal and kiss, reporters asked her what Mr. Brundage was like as a kisser. She replied, “He was an amateur.”
• At the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, John Walker, the 1,500-meter track champion from New Zealand, drank a few beers in order to come up with enough urine for his mandatory drug test following his gold medal-winning performance. Finally succeeding in his objective, he held the bottle up and said, “I’m very proud of this. It was harder than running the race.”
• At the 1912 Olympic Games, Jim Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon events. At the awards ceremony, King Gustav V of Sweden told him, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Mr. Thorpe replied, “Thanks, King.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Buy