Do you know Edwin Moses?
How about Mary Decker and Zola Budd? Evelyn Ashford?
If you don’t know those names, you might do better with these.
In all, a hurdler, two distance runners, a sprinter, a diver, a sprinter and long jumper, a greco-roman wrestler.
At different times, they were among America’s most famous and beloved athletes. Well, Budd wasn't, but you can't mention Decker without mentioning her. They were household names and we knew them, really knew them, because of the Olympics.
They were huge.
They led SportsCenter.
Seriously, they really did.
They were, and are, Olympians.
On Monday, Dick Pound, a longtime American member of the International Olympic Committee told USA Today the Tokyo Games would be postponed until 2021.
He was not speaking for the entire IOC, but there’s no reason to doubt the story he chose to break. Given the coronavirus, how could they possibly be conducted this summer?
What that means, mostly, is two things.
One, stars that only become stars through the Games, will not become stars for another year. Two, as Americans, so many of us polarized politically, geographically, culturally, religiously, we must wait another year to be on the same side of something again.
At once, it’s disappointing, because it would be amazing and heartening if 100 million of us or so could watch the same thing and root for the same people for two weeks.
Still, at second glance, they may be more valuable on the back end. Having endured loss and hardship and, at the very least, a coronavirus shock to the system, we’ll finally have something we can enjoy together, free of this COVID-19 calamity.
Moses, by the way, did not lose a 400 meter hurdles race for 10 years — 107 finals and 122 consecutive races — from 1977 to 1987. He won the ’76 gold in Montreal, too.
Decker simultaneously held the 5,000- and 10,000-meter world records, yet never claimed Olympic gold. And the year she was supposed to, 1984 in Los Angeles, she tripped herself by stepping on the bare legs and feet of Budd, a South African, allowed into the Games as a Brit, her citizenship fast-tracked just so she might — South Africa’s apartheid policy banned it from the Olympics from 1960 until 1992 — setting up what most thought would be a 3,000-meter match race.
It was the Olympics first 3,000 meters. No idea why.
Anyway, Decker fell, Budd failed to medal and Romania’s Maricica Puica, who happened to run the fastest heat, took gold.
Because this is fun, let’s just go through the list.
Ashford won four gold medals in three different Olympics — ’84, ’88, ’92 — along the way becoming the first woman to run the 100 meters in less than 11 seconds. She actually qualified for five Games, beginning in ’76.
Louganis is probably the best diver who ever lived, and perhaps the first world class athlete to contract the HIV virus.
Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive in 1991, but Louganis actually won two gold medals in Soul, in 1988, after being diagnosed, yet didn’t go public with his condition until years later.
Carl Lewis won nine gold medals in three different Olympics, only two of them relays, the last one the long jump in Atlanta, 1996, 16 years after what should have been his first Olympics was taken from him, when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games.
All Gardner did was defeat Aleksandr Karelin in the 2000 heavyweight final, in Sydney, handing the Russian his first defeat in 13 years, and becoming the first man to score on him in six.
Olympic stories can be the best stories.
• • •
All right, I’ve got nowhere else to put this but right here, because Florence Griffith Joyner was not among the names I sped through at the top of the column, but doing a tad bit of research on Ashford, I found something that’s unthinkably amazing.
The late Griffith-Joyner, who who died suddenly in 1998 of an epileptic seizure, ran the 100 meters in 10.49 in July, 1988, at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis and it’s still the record today.
In my lifetime, THE record was Bob Beamon’s 27-4 long jump in Mexico City in ’68, destroying the old mark by almost 22 inches. That one stood for not quite 23 years, but Flo-Jo’s has stood 32.
I love finding stuff like this out.
• • •
Alas, no new faces nor names will jump up and grab us this summer.
We’ll have to wait.
It’s probably better that way, but it still stinks.
The Olympics are fun.
Having others sports put in front of us is fun. Just watching people run is fun.
Damn this virus.