AP

Olympic collector donates gold medals, memorabilia worth millions

Leave a comment

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The collector of the world’s most thorough cache of Olympic torches, medals and other valuable keepsakes insists he does not play favorites. They are all his babies.

Still, when pressed, Gordy Crawford brings up a gold medal from the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Not long ago, a family from Norway put it up for auction. The price tag soared into six figures. There was only one other bidder.

“It was the IOC,” he said. “Fortunately for me, they had a budget and I didn’t. So, I have a 1932 gold medal.”

That gold medal, along with millions of dollars’ worth of Olympic treasures Crawford has collected over the years, now resides in the archives at the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs.

Crawford, 71, felt it was time to turn his passel over to the USOC. He spent $1.5 million to build an archive room (an entire floor, actually) that includes a 225-square-foot fireproof Special Collections area where the torches and medals will live behind glass.

Parts of the collection will eventually go on display at the U.S. Olympic Museum, now under construction in Colorado Springs and expected to open in 2020.

“I want all that history to be celebrated in a public place, hopefully to inspire future athletes to compete, and to inspire sponsors and donors to contribute to the team,” said Crawford, who, in addition to his role of collector, historian and passionate fan, serves as chairman of the USOC’s charitable arm, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation.

Poring through Crawford’s collection is like taking a trivia tour through Olympic history. Did you know:

—There are only two medals for each event at the first modern Games — Athens,1896 — a silver awarded to the winner and bronze for second place.

—The 1904 Olympics were folded into the World’s Fair in St. Louis, and there was so much action going on around the games, says USOC archivist Teri Hedgpeth, as she gingerly unwraps medals from those games, “that hardly anyone knew they were going on.”

—That led Athens to hold a 1906 Olympics, the “officialness” of which is widely debated. Were they real Olympics? Depends on who you ask. But Crawford has a medals set from them nonetheless.

—One of Crawford’s most valuable torches is from the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki — only 21 exist, and only three of those were in private hands. Crawford waited 25 years for his chance and he paid more than $1 million for it. Another is from 1956, the year Melbourne held the Summer Games, but because of quarantine rules, did not allow horses to enter the country for the equestrian events. That competition was moved to Stockholm, and a limited number of torches were produced that read “Stockholm 1956.” All were marched into the competition area on horseback.

Crawford’s collection essentially completes an archive that is literally overflowing with Olympic memories grand and not-so-grand.

In one corner, still covered in plastic wrap, is a full-sized statue of Sam the Olympic Eagle, the official mascot of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Displayed on a bookshelf nearby is one of Michael Johnson‘s famous golden spikes from the 1996 Olympics.

Last month, the archive received a mint-condition Opening Ceremony uniform from the Mexico City Games from swimmer Kathy Thomas Young.

After bobsledder Steven Holcomb died last year, his family donated his uniforms, medals his crystal globes from World Cup action — six of which reside in the fireproof vault along with Crawford’s torches and medals.

“Shock and awe,” Hedgpeth said of her reaction to Crawford’s donation. “Awe that he allows us to do it, and it’s a phenomenal collection. It’s a dream come true.”

Crawford’s day job was at a global investment company, where he worked for a long while as a media/entertainment analyst.

He received an invitation to the Sarajevo Winter Games in 1984 as a guest of ABC. Soon after landing, he was surrounded by pin traders, including Viktor Cornell, one of the world’s most renowned pin collectors.

“He’s the guy who sold me my first Olympic medal,” Crawford said. “It was a bronze from Berlin in 1936. That started me collecting the serious stuff.”

There are a few missing pieces: A gold medal from 1904. Medals from Sochi and Vancouver.

In some ways, the newer medals are harder to come by.

Back in the days of the Eastern Bloc, an athlete from East Germany or Hungary could sell a medal and buy a house, or feed his family for a year.

These days, Olympic athletes across the globe are, in general, more financially secure, giving them less incentive to sell the recently won prizes.

Meanwhile, children and grandparents of Olympic winners from decades gone by come across old medals sitting in drawers and basements; they may feel no real connection to the medals but want them in the hands of someone who will take care of them.

Crawford fits the bill.

Soon, an insurance appraiser will come to Colorado to put a value on goods that are estimated to be worth more than $15 million in total. But Crawford and Hedgpeth each acknowledge that there isn’t really a number to put on a collection this thorough.

“It’s a combination of loving the Olympics,” Crawford says in explaining his passion for collecting, “and I’m a real patriot. My eyes still well up when they play the anthem. And I love seeing great athletes represent our country.”

MORE: Team Shuster tabletop curling game to hit stores

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

AP
AP
AP

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: What happened to LaShawn Merritt?

When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

Leave a comment

Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Jade Carey clinches first U.S. Olympic gymnastics berth