YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Bittersweet Victories for Zapedzki and Lusis

September 01, 2002|Lance Pugmire

Munich Olympic organizers campaigned for their Games by pushing the spirit of healing from World War II.

Two defending gold medalists arrived in Munich bearing ugly scars from the war.

The fathers of Poland shooter Jozef Zapedzki, a 43-year-old major in his country's army, and Soviet Union javelin thrower Janis Lusis, 33, were killed.

Zapedzki's father died in a German concentration camp in Dachau. Lusis' father, Voldemars, was executed in his home country of Latvia by Russian soldiers.

After Zapedzki won his second consecutive gold medal in a well-contested 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event, he made the 12-mile drive to Dachau and placed a wreath at the grave of his father, who had died in 1942.

"You can hardly find a Polish family not affected by the invasions of the Nazis on Sept. 1, 1939, and the Russians on Sept. 17," said Roman Czarny, deputy consul general of the Polish Consul in Los Angeles.

Lusis' father was killed May 14, 1945, five days after Russia declared victory over Germany.

Russian soldiers demanding community support for a rebuilding campaign in the former independent republic of Latvia came upon the countryside home belonging to Voldemars Lusis, a 44-year-old cultural technician responsible for the building of roads and bridges.

"They wanted to take some things away from our home, things like horses, pigs," Janis Lusis said.

"These were robberies. My father fought that. He tried to stop them."

A Russian soldier executed Lusis by gunshot.

Janis Lusis was 6 years old.

In Munich 27 years later, Lusis said his anger toward the Russian military was repressed by his enthusiasm for athletics.

"I was the best at what I did," Lusis said.

Yet, he finished with a silver medal after losing by less than an inch to a German, Klaus Wolfermann.

Lusis, 63, now coaches javelin throwers at the Latvian National Sports School.

He competed in four Olympics (1964-76) and is the only man in his country with a complete set of medals, owning the 1968 gold, a 1964 bronze and the 1972 silver.

His son, also named Voldemars, was a javelin entrant in the 2000 Summer Games.

Attempts to contact Zapedzki, 73, through the Polish Olympic Committee and Polish Consul were not answered. Janusz Tatera, secretary general of the Polish Olympic Committee, said Zapedzki is retired living in a country home without a telephone and has not participated in the last two annual meetings of Polish Olympians, an event that typically draws large crowds of medalists.

Los Angeles Times Articles