Proudly carrying the Olympic flame, Rafer Johnson climbed 99 steps to the top of the Coliseum, stood still momentarily for the whole world to see, then ignited a fuse that set ablaze five Olympic rings and the torch, launching the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Johnson's children, Jenny, then 11, and Josh, then 9, were mesmerized by the pageantry and elegance of the celebration.
Both understood from reading history books and viewing old videos what their father had accomplished as an Olympic gold medalist, but neither realized the true impact he'd had on others--until that unforgettable summer of '84.
"It was emotional for me to see all these people cheering him on and having such pride in him," Jenny said. "I was crying."
Said Josh, "To me, he was just Dad, but after lighting the torch, it was a mob scene. I knew what he had done, but I didn't know the significance of inspiring other people."
From that moment, the Olympics became the dream of Jenny and Josh.
"To see the grandness as far as the athletic competition, it blew my mind," Jenny said. "That's when I started to catch the fever, trying to get to the Olympics and figuring out a sport that would get me there."
Each enrolled at UCLA, their father's alma mater, without a scholarship. They became top competitors, Jenny in volleyball, Josh in track and field, earned their degrees and set about making the 2000 Olympic Games, Jenny in beach volleyball, Josh in the javelin.
Dad joked about being carried off on a stretcher if his children reached Sydney.
"It would be a thrill beyond comparison with anything that's happened to me," Johnson said.
Get the EKG machine packed and ready, Jenny and Josh just might do it.
Jenny, 26, and her beach volleyball partner, former UCLA teammate Annett Buckner-Davis, are No. 2 among U.S. teams in the FIVB rankings. If they stay there, or move up to No. 1 when the final standings come out in mid-August, they will compete in Sydney.
Josh, 24, faces a tougher task. He only started throwing the javelin at 19. His best mark is 248 feet 9 inches, two years ago. Even if he finishes in the top three at the U.S. trials in July, he must reach the Olympic qualifying standard of 82 meters (269-3).
Don't count him out, though.
"He's one of those guys, if he finds [his form], he can do amazing things," UCLA Coach Art Venegas said.
Johnson's influence on children is everywhere.
They are the ones inspired to never give up after seeing him overcome near exhaustion to cross the finish line ahead of college teammate C.K. Yang of Taiwan in the final event of the 1960 Olympic decathlon in Rome, winning the gold medal in a world-record performance.
They are the ones who learned that simply trying sometimes is more important than winning while watching Johnson nurture one of the greatest endeavors of the 20th century, the Special Olympics.
They are the ones who felt pain in their hearts, seeing Johnson in the Ambassador Hotel at the side of a dying Robert F. Kennedy on the fateful June night of the California primary in 1968.
They are the ones who had tears in their eyes and butterflies in their stomachs watching Johnson climb the steep grade of the Coliseum at 48 to light the torch for the 1984 Olympics.
Among all the youths around the world who grew up admiring Johnson, only Jenny and Josh are his children.
They grew up in Sherman Oaks. Josh played youth soccer and basketball. He developed the same personality traits--quiet, laid-back, a good listener--as his father.
Jenny started playing volleyball in seventh grade. She took on the characteristics of her mother, Betsy--fiery, outspoken, always passionate. Both of the Johnsons' children attended tiny Windward School in Los Angeles and paid far more attention to academics than athletics.
At UCLA, their athletic talents began to take hold. Jenny was a three-year starter and earned All-American honors as an outside hitter her senior year in 1995. After graduating, she began a career in beach volleyball. Along the way, she married former UCLA receiver Kevin Jordan.
They live in a Tarzana condominium, but these days, Kevin is lucky to catch a glimpse of Jenny. She has traveled to Brazil, Portugal, France, Japan, China, Canada and Mexico for competitions. Still to come are trips to Switzerland, Germany and Italy.
One of these days, Jenny plans to get around to having a footrace with her husband to see who's faster.
"We've always talked about having a race--well, a staggered race," she said. "I'd start a little bit farther ahead."
She might not have her father's speed, but Jenny has his unrelenting work ethic, as does Josh.
"[Josh] has come much farther than I have in a shorter period of time," Jenny said. "Everything he's accomplished is based on hard work. He's always looking for new ways to get a leg up. He's always innovating."
Josh enrolled at UCLA with the intention of competing in his most successful high school sport, lacrosse. One day, he and his father ran into Venegas, UCLA's throwing coach.