Rafer Johnson

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Let’s go back to 1960, and the Olympic games. That was the year a 26-year-old named Rafer Johnson took the gold medal in the decathlon. Four years earlier, Johnson had won the silver.

But his achievements did not end when his athletic career was over. Johnson became a successful actor in the 1960s and ”70s.

Johnson also became politically active in the 1960s, and that’s how he found himself in the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, 55 years ago this week.

I met him in 1998, when he wrote his autobiography, called The Best that I Can Be:

So here now, from 1998, Rafer Johnson.z

Rafer Johnson died in 2020. He was 86

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee
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Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Sports Illustrated For Women once named Jackie Joyner-Kersee the greatest female athlete of all time.

With her almost superhuman talents in the heptathlon and long jump, Joyner-Kersee accumulated multiple Olympic gold medals during her career.

After her Olympic career ended, she even was briefly a professional basketball player.

In 1997, Jackie Joyner-Kersee wrote her autobiography, a book called A Kind of Grace. That’s when I have the chance to talk with her. So here now, from 1997, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is 61 now. A few weeks ago, she was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.

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Dan Jansen

Photo: Ineke Vogel

As the 2022 Winter Olympics get underway today in China, we are reminded that these games can produce heroes and great triumphs, but also soul crushing defeats which can bring out either the best or the worst in a competitor.

Wisconsin native Dan Jansen was one of the world’s best speed skaters when he went to the Winter Olympics in 1988. He carried the expectations of millions of Americans on his shoulders. But as the games got underway, Jensen got devastating news from back home — his sister Jane was dying of leukemia.

He was informed of her death just before competing in the 500-meter event, the one he was expected to win. But he fell in that race, and fell again in the 1,000-meter race, and came home with no medals.

In 1992, he again came home empty-handed. Many people tacked the name the heartbreak kid on him.

But in 1994, at the Lillehammer Olympics, in his final race, the 1,000-meter, Jansen won his first and only medal, a gold medal.

I met him just a few months later, when he wrote a book called Full Circle.

So here now, from 1994, Dan Jansen.

Dan Jansen is 56 now. He’s an NBC commentator.

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Carl Lewis

The covid-delayed Tokyo Olympics get underway today. We’ll seen enougbh know who the next athletic heroes will be.

Throughout the 1980s and into the ‘90s, one of the world’s dominant sprinters and long jumpers with Carl Lewis.

In addition to several world championships, Lewis won gold Olympic gold medals in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996.

Sports Illustrated once named him “Olympian Of Tje Century.”

No doubt Carl Louis was one of the world’s greatest athletes. The problem, according to many of his competitors, was that he was much too aware of how good he was, and eager to show it off.

Critics said Lewis lacked sufficient humility. And, they said, he was too aloof.

I met him in the summer of 1990, after he wrote a book called Inside Track.

So here now, from 1990, Carl Lewis:

Carl turned 60 this month. He owns a marketing and branding company.

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Nary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton

Did you know that December 21st is National Short Girl Appreciation Day? Ever since 1984, one of America’s favorite short girls has been Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

At the age of just 16, Retton became the first Anerucab woman to ever win the gold medal in all-around gymnastics competition at the Olympics. She also won two silver medals, and two bronze medals.

Her boundless energy and infectious smile made her one of America’s most famous, and most beloved, athletes.

I met her in the spring of 2000, when she wrote a motivational book on how to achieve happiness in life.

So here now, from 2000, Mary Lou Retton.

Mary Lout Retton will be 53 in January. She lives in Texas.