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Louganis Takes the Plunge

August 08, 2004|Bill Dwyre

When Greg Louganis won the three-meter springboard diving gold medal, it was everything he wanted and everything that was expected of him as the world's ranking star in his sport.

That his margin of victory was an unthinkable 92.10 points was almost shrugged off by most who had, frankly, expected such excellence. But there were at least two prominent people, both Olympic legends, who found Louganis' success on this day almost sacred.

Dr. Sammy Lee won gold medals in diving in 1948 and 1952, and he, better than anyone, knew how primed Louganis had been in 1980, when the Moscow boycott negated years of preparation and deprived him of virtually certain moments of glory.

"Justice has been served," Lee said after Louganis won.

Olga Fikotova's Olympic discus gold medal in Melbourne led her on a path of a well-publicized marriage to American hammer thrower and Olympic gold medalist Harold Connolly, her name changed to Connolly and her country of citizenship, Czechoslovakia, changed to the United States. She competed in four more Olympics, all for the United States, the last one after starting her family of four children.

When 1984 and the Los Angeles Olympics arrived, Connolly was working on a reading program at USC. She had some involvement with the preparation for the Los Angeles Games, mostly at the request of Peter Ueberroth, who went out of his way to respect all of the area's Olympic heritage, even if hers had its roots in an Iron Curtain country. Still, Connolly never felt a part of that.

"I was an Olympian, but never really their Olympian," she says.

So her '84 Games were made special by Louganis, whom she never met.

"Every noon, I would sneak out of my office," Connolly says, "and I would stand kind of around the corner and watch Greg Louganis practice. I loved to watch him. It was like he was weightless. Like an Olympic dove. An angel. In my five Olympics, I never got to watch diving, so this was so special for me.

"This was my Olympics."

Carl Lewis' Olympics were continuing nicely. He won his third gold medal, turning in a 19.80 in the 200 and gathering his silver and bronze teammates for a kneel-and-group-hug/photo opportunity afterward.

France beat Yugoslavia in soccer, and the crowd set another American attendance record for the sport. This time, 97,451 showed up at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. men's volleyball team, led by Steve Timmons, won the gold and Arie Sellinger, whose U.S. women's team had lost the day before in the gold medal final to China, said that both China and Japan had an advantage at these Olympics because they didn't have the distraction of a negative press.

And the interest in the upcoming Mary Decker-Zola Budd 3,000-meter race couldn't have been higher. The Times' Jim Murray, chronicling the pressure and political slants centering on the 18-year-old barefooted farm girl, who changed her citizenship from South Africa to Britain so she could run in the Olympics, wrote:

"Not since the Luftwaffe has any visitor evoked such contortions of hate on the faces of Londoners.... Blaming Zola Budd for apartheid is like blaming Shirley Temple for the Johnstown Flood."

-- Bill Dwyre

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