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
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.