The Winter Olympics are getting underway.
This is a story from the Summer Games, or it would’ve been, had things played out differently for the guy at the center of the story.
It’s the story of Bruce Kennedy, a guy who missed the Olympics three times.
Kennedy was a standout javelin thrower for the University of California, Berkeley in the early 1970s.
But he was born in what is today the country of Zimbabwe, which in those days was a British colony called Rhodesia.
He made the country’s Olympic team, but just days before the Games, Rhodesia’s athletes were barred from competing in the 1972 Olympics because of the country’s largely unrecognized government, run only by a white minority.
Kennedy said he wasn’t surprised by what had happened, so he set his sights into the future.
In 1976, Rhodesia was still banned from the Olympics.
Kennedy would likely have competed and his best javelin performances were not far off from the medalists’ performances that year, but again he expected he wouldn’t be able to compete, and didn’t even go to the Games.
But he thought the third time might be the charm.
Kennedy had married an American woman and in 1977 became a U.S. citizen.
He trained harder than ever; he started throwing farther than ever.
And he qualified for Team USA, but then the U.S. government announced it would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
Three missed Olympics in a row.
In 1984, he tried out for the Los Angeles Games but didn’t make the team; he attended as an usher at the LA Coliseum.
But he’s said he didn’t regret what happened, because he felt he was an American first and an athlete second.
Interestingly, in recent years Kennedy’s unique story gave him insight into what modern Olympians were facing as they tried to compete during the pandemic.
His advice: keep training, keep working, keep pushing.
Maybe you’ll end up in the Olympics, maybe you won’t, but if you ease up or even GIVE up, “you don’t hurt anybody but yourself.”
You know how a lot of medalists bite their gold, silver or bronzes?
This requires some caution.
In 2010, luger David Moeller of Germany broke one of his front teeth on his silver medal.
With the Tokyo Olympics Facing Uncertainty, Bruce Kennedy Knows The Landscape (Cal Sports Report via SI.com)
Luger David Moeller breaks tooth on medal (News.com.au)