Catching up with Bruce Jenner

Bruce Jenner
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Nobody has done a better job of milking more out of a single performance, Bruce Jenner jokes.

Jenner won the 1976 Olympic decathlon in Montreal, retired after the Games and went on a gold medal celebrity run that’s still going strong 36 years later.

He was drafted by an NBA team, starred in made-for-TV movies and is perhaps better known now than ever due to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” on E! since 2007.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Jenner to discuss Olympic memories:

OlympicTalk: You were teammates with iconic distance runner Steve Prefontaine at your first Olympics in 1972. What was Pre like?

Jenner: He was one of my roommates at the Games in 1972. We also spent a month in Oslo, Norway, training before going to Munich, getting acclimated with the time change. So I got to know him pretty well.

I was 22 years old. I had never needed a passport before. I never expected to make it on the Olympic Team in the first place. I came out of nowhere at the trials, wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 and made it on the team in the last event [the 1500m, earning third place overall].

So I didn’t know any of these guys. I had heard of them and saw Prefontaine run, but I didn’t know the guy beforehand.

So we go to Norway, and let me tell you, those guys knew how to have a good time. I was going to bed early, and these guys were out partying. One night Pre had a little bit too much, and we like poured him into bed that night. The next morning, he got up and did the hardest workout I think I’ve ever seen in my life. I was shocked.

Him and Frank Shorter, and all these people, were having such a great time. My thinking was oh my God, they’re so happy they made it on the Olympic Team and they’re not worried enough about what’s going to happen once they get to Munich.

But then Shorter wins the marathon, and Pre had a great 5000m race even though he wound up fourth.

When I woke up on the morning of the terrorist attack, Pre was the guy who had just gone out for a morning run and told me something’s going on out there. He heard somebody got shot. He said you won’t believe what’s happened outside. He was the one that broke the news to me.

source: Getty Images
Bruce Jenner is one of 12 Americans to win the Olympic decathlon (Getty Images).

OlympicTalk: What are the overwhelming memories of winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon?

Jenner: I wasn’t shocked that I had won, because nobody had really beaten me in three years. I was the world record holder going in, so I planned on winning.

When I got to the Games, I was under this enormous amount of pressure. Not only is it the Games, it’s the last meet of my life, in front of family, friends, relatives, the bicentennial year, patriotism at its height, everybody’s got the American flag.

All that pressure, and then to go into that Olympic arena and absolutely have the best meet of my life. I added up my absolute best performance in each of the 10 events and figured it out beforehand that it was 8,678 points. I scored 8,634 in Montreal. I was about as close to perfect as you could possibly get.

It was a bittersweet moment. I was very happy to win, but also very sad because I was walking away that day, too. I was at the top of my game, 26 years old, best in the world at what I do, and I’ve got to walk away. I cried when it was over with. I thought, God, I don’t even have to work out tomorrow. What do I do?

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OlympicTalk: The Olympic decathlon champion is dubbed the world’s greatest athlete. Who is the greatest athlete of all time?

Jenner: If you’ve seen my golf swing, you know it’s not me. I have to go with the current guy, Ashton Eaton [2012 Olympic decathlon champion and world record holder]. He’s doing things right now that are just unbelievable.

I’ve always said the next great one in the decathlon is a guy who’s going to have really good [100m] speed and still be able to run the 1500m. Every sprinter dies in the 1500m [the last decathlon event].

At the trials in 2012, Ashton Eaton went out there and ran a 10.2 100m, breaking the decathlon world record in the 100m, and came back with a 4:14 1500m. That is by far the best double I’ve ever seen in the decathlon.

He’s going to get 9,200, 9,300 points before he’s done. [Eaton’s current world record is 9,039 points.] He’s just a phenomenal athlete. His throws are coming around better and better, and those are the easy ones to learn. There’s no limit for him.

There are great athletes out there, the Michael Jordans of the world, but the decathlon is the only standardized test over history of a person’s ability to run, jump and throw. Those are the basics of athletics.

OlympicTalk: What was the coolest experience after winning Olympic gold?

Jenner: Being asked to be on the Wheaties box. I also never thought in a million years I would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so that was very cool. But it was even harder to be on the Wheaties box

OlympicTalk: What’s your favorite souvenir from 1976 other than your gold medal?

Jenner: I have a picture of me, in black and white, standing behind the blocks of the 400m in Montreal, getting ready to run. I remember being there and the intensity of the moment. I was ready to kill somebody if they got in my lane. This was the last 400m of my life. I wanted to run 47.5 [he ran 47.51]. I’m going to run the hardest I’ve ever run in my life.

That was by far my favorite picture, and it’s the only picture I have in my house of anything from the Games.

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Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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Marie-Philip Poulin is first female hockey player to win Canada Athlete of the Year

Marie-Philip Poulin
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Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female hockey player to win Canada’s Athlete of the Year after captaining the national team at the Winter Olympics and winning her third gold medal.

Poulin, 31, scored twice and assisted once in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final on Feb. 17. She has scored seven of Canada’s 10 goals over the last four Olympic finals dating to the 2010 Vancouver Games — all against the U.S.

Nine different male hockey players won Canada Athlete of the Year — now called the Northern Star Award — since its inception in 1936, led by Wayne Gretzky‘s four titles. Sidney Crosby won it in 2007 and 2009, and Carey Price was the most recent in 2015.

Poulin is the fifth consecutive Olympic champion to win the award in an Olympic year after bobsledder Kaillie Humphries in 2014, swimmer Penny Oleksiak in 2016, moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury in 2018 and decathlete Damian Warner in 2021.

Canada’s other gold medalists at February’s Olympics were snowboarder Max Parrot in slopestyle, plus teams in speed skating’s women’s team pursuit and short track’s men’s 5000m relay.

In men’s hockey, Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy as the season’s best defenseman.

The Northern Star Award is annually decided by Canadian sports journalists.

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