ESPN Network: | | | | ABCSports | EXPN | INSIDER | FANTASY   

World's Greatest Athlete struggled to greatness

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Jenner true to word, wins Olympic gold
By Mike Sielski
Special to

Signature Event

July 30, 1976 - After finishing 10th in the decathlon at the 1972 Olympics, Bruce Jenner told the winner, the Soviet Union's Nikolai Avilov, "Next time, I'm going to beat you."

Next time was this time, and the 26-year-old Jenner was true to his word. The man who wanted to be a movie or television star was the matinee idol in Montreal for winning the Olympic gold medal. In breaking his own world record by 80 points, Jenner registered 8,618 points in the grueling two-day, 10-event competition.

He started the day 35 points behind West Germany's Guido Kratschmer (who would finish second) and 17 behind Avilov (third). But he was confident of victory as his strongest events came on the second day.

He ran the 110-meter hurdles in 14.84 seconds; threw the discus 164 feet, 2 inches; leaped a personal best of 15 feet, 9 inches in the pole vault; threw the javelin 224 feet, 9 inches; and ran the 1,500 meters in 4:12.61, another personal best.

When he crossed the finish line, a fan thrust a small American flag into his hand. After waving it, Jenner threw the flag into the crowd, as if it were a miniature javelin.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • During his freshman year at Graceland College, Jenner tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a football game. The injury kept him from competing in the decathlon as a freshman.

  • In 1970, competing in his first college decathlon, Jenner set the Graceland record with 6,991 points. The previous mark had belonged to Mike Maddox, his roommate.

  • A few weeks after coming in 10th in the decathlon in Munich, Jenner flunked his draft physical.

  • He graduated from Graceland in 1973 with a degree in physical education.

  • Between 1973 and 1976, Jenner lost only one of 13 decathlons -- at the 1975 AAU Championships, when he failed to clear his opening height of 14 feet in the pole vault.

  • Jenner's 8,045 points broke the Pan-American Games decathlon record in 1975 in Mexico City.

  • In training for the 1976 Olympics, Jenner popped as many as 57 vitamin pills a day.

  • Jenner's first two world records, both set in Eugene, Ore. -- 8,524 points in August 1975 and 8,538 points in June 1976 -- were recorded by hand timing rather than automatic timing because of electronic malfunctions.

  • For winning the Olympic decathlon in 1976, Jenner was voted the Sullivan Award, given to the United States' outstanding amateur athlete, and was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

  • For several years after winning the Olympic gold medal, Jenner served as a special correspondent and guest host on ABC's Good Morning America.

  • In 1978, the same year he was named Outstanding International Sportscaster of the Year, Jenner says he turned down the lead role in the film Superman.

  • He was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1980.

  • Jenner was an outspoken critic of Jimmy Carter for the President's decision to have the U.S. boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

  • In 1986, Jenner was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

  • An avid pilot and golfer, Jenner owns his own jet and has a membership at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

  • He has driven racecars professionally in several Grand Prix events.

    Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories