Saturday, August 04, 2012


My Favorite Olympians

The Olympics are on and people are swimming, diving, running, jumping, throwing sharp objects, throwing heavy objects and playing games like beach volleyball, soccer, tennis and shooting air rifles. Yes, that’s an event.

So, this got me to thinking, at the age of sixty-five, I’ve seen a few Olympic Games come and go. Who are my favorite Olympic athletes through all of those years?

Right away, I can name two. Hal Connolly and Wilma Rudolph. They had something in common besides the fact that they were U.S. track and field athletes and champions. 

Hal was the hammer throw gold medal winner in 1956. He did this despite the fact that he grew up with a deformed left arm, having suffered nerve damage at birth. It was over four inches shorter than his right arm as an adult and his left hand was two-thirds the size of his right. Yet he managed to learn how to throw the hammer, a sixteen pound ball attached to a wire with a handle, better than anyone at that time.
I was lucky enough to see him perform one year, I think it was 1957, when he competed in an AAU track meet that took place in my home town of Needham, MA, as part of the Fourth of July celebration.

Wilma Rudolph was a thrill to watch on TV as she sprinted to Olympic gold three times in the 1960 games. She was a beautiful African-American who grew up in the segregated South, but became a star with her Olympic performance, the first games to be televised internationally, largely thanks to the invention of videotape. Wilma was born prematurely, at 4.5 pounds, and at four years old, she contracted polio. Fortunately, it was mild and she overcame it.

Both of these champions had to overcome major physical problems from their youth and went on to become Olympic champions and record holders. I have other favorite Olympians, but these two champions jump off the page for me.

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