On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS August 8, 2016 #605 Up next…Amateur-based Olympics?
After further review… Olympiad XXXI (31 for those not into Roman numerals) is now under way in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with some 5,000 hours of televised events! Long before the Olympics were televised, I became a fan of our athletes. It was only natural, with accomplishments like those of Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936 providing examples of US athletes with the courage and determination to compete under the most trying conditions.
Olympic athletes came into my life when I was a student at Occidental College (L.A.). I was the M.C. at our annual “Water Carnival” in 1948, and we invited Patricia McCormick to put on a diving exhibition. McCormick that year had just missed by the narrowest of margins qualifying for the games in London. But she was dedicated and persistent, winning four gold medals (the feat known in the trade as a “double-double”) in the springboard and platform events in Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). After retiring from competition, McCormick founded “Pat’s Champs” a foundation that funds programs to encourage youngsters to set goals and follow their dreams. I was honored to serve on her board as chair. About that same time, I met Sammy Lee, the first Asian-American to win an Olympic medal for the USA. In fact, Lee won a pair of golds (“2-Golds” as he is known-by) one each in London (1948) and Helsinki (1952) in platform diving. Dr. Sammy Lee, now 96 and enshrined in the US Olympic Hall of Fame, is still active in his community.
In the mid-1970s I worked with special athletes in the California Special Olympic Summer Games, where I met Rafer Johnson. Rafer had won the decathlon gold medal in Rome (1960), after his decathlon silver medal in Melbourne (1956). He has served as chairman for Special Olympics, and has been its spokesman, for over 45 years. I was honored to serve on that California board with him some years back.
In that same time frame, as principal of Franklin High School (L.A.), we invited Olympians Dwight Stones and Cathy Rigby to demonstrate their athletic skills to our student body. In a packed gym, Stones, an Olympic high jumper in the Munich games (1972) and Montreal (1976), jumped off a hard wood floor and cleared the bar at seven feet. Cathy at 4’11”, was the first American–male or female–to win gold at the World Games in gymnastics, and though she did not medal at the Olympics in Mexico City (1968) or Munich she produced outstanding demonstrations on the balance beam and uneven parallel bars. She was the much-admired American face of the Olympics in the early 1970s. The achievements of all these named above were accomplished as amateurs, often competing with athletes from other countries who were paid to compete.
The TunneySide always believed the Olympics were created “to heal wars and to come together in peace.” It was for amateurs competing as individuals, not for their country’s medal count – as if the number of victories equals being a great nation!
Will you log-in with about amateur vs professional athletes in Olympic competition?
To contact Jim, go to www.jimtunney.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Another 101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” is now available for $20. which includes tax, shipping and autograph, if requested. These articles take current sports issues and transforms them into positive messages for better living. Email to the above. Thank You!