Bruce Jenner

Catching up with 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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Ill Katie Ledecky withdraws from world championships races

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An ill Katie Ledecky withdrew from her next two events at the world swimming championships, USA Swimming announced less than two hours before she was scheduled to race on Tuesday morning in South Korea.

“Katie has not been feeling well since arriving to Gwangju on [Wednesday], and these precautionary measures are being taken to ensure her well-being and proper recovery, and to allow her to focus her energy on an abbreviated schedule,” National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko said in a statement.

Doctors are still identifying the specific problem with lab work, said her coach, Greg Meehan. Ledecky is out of the 200m and 1500m freestyles Tuesday but could still swim the 4x200m free relay on Thursday and the 800m free on Friday and Saturday.

Meehan said Ledecky’s slow last 50 meters of Sunday’s opening 400m free final, where she was passed and relegated for silver, was “a little bit of a sign” of a problem.

Meehan also said she was “having a hard time” in the final 500 meters of her last race, the 1500m free heats on Monday morning, where she posted the fastest time by 2.69 seconds. He checked with Ledecky and doctors after that race.

“She was feeling a little bit better last night, and then we were hopeful today,” Meehan said. “But woke up this morning and was not feeling well at all. We’re just going to take it session by session and then day by day. And then if we can get her back in the meet at some point, that would be ideal scenario.”

Ledecky did not mention a medical issue in speaking to the media Sunday after she suffered her first loss in the 400m free in a major international meet.

“This doesn’t take away from what Ari did,” Meehan said of 18-year-old gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia. “The message isn’t that it’s an excuse for coming up with a silver medal.”

Ledecky would have been in line to swim the 1500m free final and 200m free semifinals within about an hour of each other on Tuesday, the most difficult turnaround of her slate this week and perhaps for any swimmer at the meet.

Ledecky won the Rio Olympic 200m freestyle but was relegated to silver and bronze in the event at the 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. She ranks No. 5 in the world this year in the event, the shortest distance that she races individually at major meets.

Titmus owns the fastest 200m free time this year.

Ledecky, who has never withdrawn from an event at a major international meet in eight years at this level, is undefeated at 1500m. She owns the eight fastest times in history, and her world record is 18.4 seconds faster than the No. 2 performer all time in an event that makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Also withdrawing before the 200m free were Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the 2018 Pan Pacs, and Australian Emma McKeon, who shared 2017 World silver with Ledecky. Ruck’s decision was due to her busy program overall and focusing on other events. McKeon is also ill.

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Sydney McLaughlin takes juggling act to USATF Outdoor Champs

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Sydney McLaughlin can juggle. She can also ride a unicycle. And she has been known to juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time.

“But I haven’t done both of them at the same time in a long time,” the 400m hurdler added. “I’m getting older now.”

About to turn 20 next month, she is juggling quite a few things these days — a new coach, living on the West Coast, making the transition from college to the pro circuit and the weight of lofty expectations. Her name constantly pops up among the ones to watch heading into the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

That’s hardly a surprise: In 2016 and at just 16, McLaughlin became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics in more than four decades.

Pressure doesn’t bother her. She just keeps her eye on the prize like she did as a kid when her dad would coax her to run with the reward of a chocolate candy bar.

Winning is her incentive now — and it’s just as sweet.

“For me it’s kind of just focusing on myself and making sure I’m doing everything possible to be successful,” McLaughlin said ahead of the U.S. track and field championships, which start Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

A year ago, McLaughlin turned pro after spending a season at Kentucky and winning the NCAA 400 hurdles crown.

Since then, the New Jersey native has been adjusting to life in Los Angeles and working with 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles gold medalist Joanna Hayes. McLaughlin won her Diamond League 400m hurdles debut in Oslo, Norway, last month over U.S. teammate and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad.

That despite knocking down the first hurdle.

“It’s good to know the strength was there,” said McLaughlin, who also won in Monaco on July 12. “But definitely have to work on the hurdles form and everything.”

McLaughlin will be one of the favorites when the 400m hurdles start Friday. It’s a loaded field that also includes Muhammad, 2015 world champion silver medalist Shamier Little and bronze medalist Cassandra Tate, ’16 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer. Since reigning world champion Kori Carter has an automatic spot to worlds in Doha this fall, there are three more spots up for grabs in the event.

“There’s so much depth,” McLaughlin said. “It’s particularly hard to make that team.”

McLaughlin teamed up in early November with Hayes, who ran the 400m hurdles before switching over to the 100m hurdles. Any chance McLaughlin makes a similar move?

“We always joke about it,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have to see about that one.”

One hurdle at a time. Her focus remains on steadily learning the nuances of the taxing 400 hurdles event.

“She’s talented and there’s no need to put everything on the line or everything into it in one year,” Hayes explained. “Give her room to grow and make strides.”

Hayes gets asked this often: Can McLaughlin one day break the world record? The mark sits at 52.34 seconds set by Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia in 2003. McLaughlin’s top time is 52.75 seconds, which she ran in May 2018.

“We don’t talk about, ‘OK, we’re going to try to break the world record,’” Hayes said. “We go in there and try to execute a great race. If you do that, eventually records will come.”

Growing up, McLaughlin wasn’t all that jazzed about running. Her father, Willie, would provide plenty of motivation in the form of candy.

“He said, ‘If you run I’ll give you a chocolate bar.’ I ran the 100m and actually won,” recalled McLaughlin, who started a juggling club while in high school and recently got back into the hobby. “I think I was more excited about the chocolate bar than the fact I won. I guess he lured me into the sport.”

She is still motivated by reward — a good performance earns her either a nap or a cheeseburger.

It’s the simple things in life.

McLaughlin comes from an athletic family. Her dad was a 400m semifinalist at the 1984 Olympic Trials and her mother, Mary, ran in high school. Her two brothers and sister also have competitive running backgrounds.

And when the siblings get together, it becomes rivalry time. Sydney pairs with her brother Taylor and they’re pitted against her sister Morgan and brother Ryan. The competitions range from bowling to board games to push-ups.

“We usually win,” cracked McLaughlin, the Gatorade national high school track athlete of the year in ’16 and ’17. “Anything that involves winning you can best believe that we’re competing with each other.”

In her spare time, she’s active on social media and offers tips to kids not that much younger than her.

“I definitely think having people look up to you and ask you for advice drives you to want to do better and continue to have success,” McLaughlin said. “I have fun with being that role model that does things the right way.”

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