Friday 9 March 2012

Olympic Countdown

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

At the Winter Olympics in Grenoble in 1968 17-year-old Ondrej Nepela returned to improve on his 22nd placing at the 1964 games. He had won bronze in the European Figure Skating Championships but couldn’t reach higher than 8th in Grenoble. Perhaps he would do better at his next Olympics.

Returning to the summer games, held that year in Mexico City, was Canadian swimmer Marion Lay. Even though she was the Commonwealth Games and Canadian 100m freestyle champion, Marion just missed out on medal by coming 4th in the Olympic final. Even though she missed out on medal Marion did receive an Olympic Diploma that is awarded to all top 8 finalists in al events However, she did win a bronze with the 4x100m freestyle relay team.

Like a lot of sportspeople Marion became a media commentator after retiring, working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until 1973. She kept her sporting connections going, founding WomenSport International and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport, among other organisations. Marion also became a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee and served as Chair of the Vancouver 2010 Bid and as a director of the Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee. It was probably of mutual benefit to both Vancouver and Marion that her partner, Jenny Ballen, was head of Vancouver’s civil administration at the time.

One sport which might surprise you to learn has a lot of lgbt competitors at the summer Olympics is equestrianism. The first of these is Mason Phelps jr. of the USA. Actually, he didn’t compete. He was chosen as a reserve member for the 3-Day event team who went on to win silver. In 1972 Mason became a trainer and equestrian event manager. He founded Phelps Media Group in 2001, which has been involved in media coverage of Olympic equestrianism.

There’s no doubt that the most significant lgbt presence at the 1968 Olympics was US army doctor Tom Waddell. Tom was to become more well-known as the founder of the Gay Games. But that’s for later in the year when I celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Gay Games.

Even though he ranked 5th in the world in the decathlon before Mexico Tom only managed 6th at the games, earning him an Olympic Diploma. His Olympic career could easily have ended in Mexico. Perhaps the most memorable image to come out the Mexico games is that of American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos making the Black Power salute on the medal podium. The IOC regarded this as a political act and banned them from future Olympics. Tom Waddell was one of hundreds of athletes who came out in support of Smith and Carlos, and Waddell was threatened with being sent home and court-martialled. In the end no action was taken and he left the army a few months later.

With his medical qualifications from the army Tom began to combine his love of sport with being a physician, championing a healthy gay lifestyle that was to become a challenge in the difficult years that were to hit the gay community. His work as a physician led to his return to the Olympics in 1976.

No comments:

Post a Comment