‘The Margaret Lambert Story’ launches Olympic Channel series

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Margaret Lambert, a Jewish-German high jumper excluded from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, is the subject of the first documentary of the Olympic Channel series “Foul Play.”

Lambert told her story in an Olympic Channel interview just before her death in July at 103 years old.

The 23-minute film will be available on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app starting Thursday.

Lambert, then known as Gretel Bergmann, was a German national champion and an Olympic medal contender in the summer of 1936. Less than two months before the Berlin Games, she cleared what ended up being the gold-medal height at the Olympics.

But she was not allowed to compete for Germany. She learned that via a letter dated July 16, 1936, two weeks before the Opening Ceremony.

“They told me that day that, according to your recent performances, I’m sure you did not figure on being a member of the team because you were too inconsistent or you weren’t good enough or whatever,” Lambert said in a profile that aired during NBC’s coverage of the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The bottom of the letter signed off, “Heil Hitler!”

“I don’t forgive Germany [for] what they did,” Lambert told the Olympic Channel. “Never, never, never forget. I don’t think anybody who went through this forgot and forgave.”

Lambert was actually living in England in 1935. German officials told her to come back to try out for the Olympic team, threatening her family.

It was a charade to appease nations considering boycotting the Games due to Nazi Germany’s discrimination.

“The Germans made me come back because I was the only one who was able to compete in the Olympics,” she said. “The token Jew.”

Once the U.S. and other nations committed to traveling to Berlin, Lambert was dismissed by German officials.

“The main reason I was so upset was I wanted to show what a Jew could do,” she said in the 1996 Olympic profile. “I wanted to embarrass Hitler. … I felt horribly cheated, and I still feel cheated to this day.”

She immediately made plans to flee, eventually moving to New York and swearing she would never step foot in Germany again.

She was good enough to make a U.S. Olympic team, but World War II meant no Olympics in 1940 or 1944 and the end of her high jumping.

Lambert gained worldwide fame in 1996, when she was invited by the German Olympic Committee to attend the Atlanta Games in an act of reconciliation. She accepted and, three years later, returned to Germany.

“She decided she cannot hold subsequent generations responsible,” son Gary told the Olympic Channel.

The Olympic Channel original series “Foul Play” explores controversial subjects including religion, gender and race within the context of sports and the Olympic Movement.

At least two more films are set to air with subjects being in announced in the coming months.

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Margaret Lambert

Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

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PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”

Houston Texans turn TD celebration into relay race (video)

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The relaxation of NFL celebration rules generated another Olympic sport-themed touchdown celebration on Sunday.

Four Houston Texans players combined to make up a relay team in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Running back Lamar Miller led off after scoring on a seven-yard pass.

Miller, who reportedly ran a 100m in 10.71 seconds as a 16-year-old, handed the football off to DeAndre Hopkins, followed by Braxton Miller and finally Bruce Ellington on anchor.

“I think [Hopkins] came up with that out there,” said Lamar Miller, who briefly sprinted at the University of Miami. “He was like, whoever scored, we should do a relay.”

Unlike some recent U.S. men’s 4x100m teams at the Olympics and world championships, the Texans got the baton around clean.

“No rehearsal,” Lamar Miller said. “I think we would be a great 4x100m team.”

Last month, the Green Bay Packers celebrated like a bobsled team.

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