I prefer the Summer Olympic Games much more than the Winter version for a pretty simple reason. I grew up in Texas and there were not a lot of chances to play much Alpine Skiing with friends. So as we prepare for the London Games this week I got to thinking about the Olympic moments and athletes that stick in my mind, and while they were all over the board I kept going back to the summer of 1976.
The movie Jaws came out that summer but I didn’t see it for a few more years because there was only a 1 screen theater in my hometown of Commerce and we rarely got 1st run movies. Jaws probably didn’t make it to town until 1978 or 79′. I do vividly remember the big celebration on July 4th that year because it was the Bicentinnial year, 200 years of America!
When the Montreal games started in mid July I watched like a lot people did back then because in the pre-cable days there wasn’t much else to watch at night on TV. As I watched I became captivated by a 14 year old Romanian girl who specialty was gymnastics, which was a sport that I had never watched and knew very little about. The way Nadia ComÄƒneci danced and how she swung around on those bars kept me glued to the Philco TV. She was in fact, beautiful in many ways to me. She went on to score seven perfect 10’s and won three gold medals, including the prestigious All-Around. Nobody before or since, including American gymnast like Mary Lou Retton, gave me the same feeling about gymnastics the way Nadia did.
The 76′ games also featured perhaps the greatest collection of American boxers of all time and I think I watched every match. Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph and Howard Davis Jr. won gold medals and all but Davis went on to become professional world champions. They were every bit the Dream Team of boxing. Before you jump all over me about the 1984 American Boxing team I am aware of their greatness too. The 1984 team yielded a record 11 medals, including nine golds, also a record.
Philadelphia’s Meldrick Taylor and Tyrell Biggs were among those to take gold, joining Mark Breland, Pernell Whitaker, Paul Gonzales, Jerry Page, Frank Tate, Henry Tillman and the late Steve McCrory. Evander Holyfield likely would have been the 10th gold medalist, but he had to settle for a bronze as the result of a controversial disqualification in a semifinal bout he was winning handily against New Zealand’s Kevin Barry. But the guy that made the 76′ team my favorite was Sugar Ray Leonard. Outside of Muhammad Ali I have never seen a boxer so graceful in, and OUT, of the ring.
I don’t want to forget the contribution Bruce Jenner made to the Montreal games. Before Jenner I had no idea what the Decathlon was but after it was over I knew it was something I didn’t want to try. Jenner won the gold medal and set a world record of 8,634 points, and like Leonard had a face and personality the cameras couldn’t resist.
What are your favorite Olympic moments and people?