Donald and Ivana Trump
Donald and Ivana Trump

The US presidential nomination process is a source of anxiety and entertainment for people outside the United States. This year is no exception, particularly with the rise of Donald Trump. While Trump has built an amazingly robust brand that represents, to his fans and supporters, success, straight talk and no-nonsense bias for action, he is also seen by others as arrogant, uninformed and dishonest.

Ah, but this blog is about the Olympics. So what’s the angle?

In April, 1977, Trump married a Czech model named Ivana Zelníčková in New York City. They met in Montreal at the 1976 Olympic Games, where Ivana was a successful model. Trump was immediately enamored of Ivana, and as was his wont, would boast. “By the age of six, (Ivana) was winning medals, and in 1972 she was an alternate on the Czechoslovakian ski team at the Sapporo Winter Olympics,” wrote Trump in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal. Apparently, he talked about his super model, super athlete wife in this manner countless times.

Ivana Trump_ Spy Magazine

But as written in this profile piece on Ivana in the May, 1989 edition of Spy Magazine, Ivana’s story was a tad embellished by The Don, as she admitted to calling him in the article.

Just to be clear, it doesn’t appear that Ivana was saying that she was an alternate on the Czech Olympic squad. Trump was the one waxing poetic about his beautiful bride.

Is Trump exuding success or dishonesty? I’ll leave that to you.

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Bruce and Caitlyn_cover to cover

NINE – Meet Caitlyn Jenner: Jenner reveals in July that she would no longer be known as Bruce Jenner, sparking a dialogue about what it means to be transgender. The 1976 gold medal-winning pentathlon men’s champion’s cover story on Vanity Fair, and follow-up television interviews helped broaden the world view on people who identify themselves as transgender.

Day Thirteen: The Championships - Wimbledon 2015
LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 12: Serena Williams of the United States and Novak Djokovic of Serbia dance on stage at the Champions Dinner at the Guild Hall on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships on July 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Thomas Lovelock – AELTC Pool/Getty Images)

EIGHT – Olympians Serena Williams and Novak Djokavic Win 3/4 of their Grand Slams: Williams won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. She is a four-time gold medalist, winning gold in doubles in 2000, 2008 and 2012, as well as the singles championship in 2012. Djokavic won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. Djokavic now has a total 10 Grand Slams, and took the bronze medal in singles play in Beijing in 2008.

fc barcelona uefa.jpg

SEVEN – Barcelona FC Wins the Treble: In the 2014–2015 season, Barcelona win La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League titles, becoming the first European team to have won the treble twice. Olympians on Barcelona FC include Javier Mascherano (gold for Argentina in 2004 and 2008), Lionel Messi (gold for Argentina in 2008), Neymar (silver for Brazil in 2012), Luis Suarez (competed for Uruguay in 2012)

See this link for 13 through 15, and 10 through 12.

Lasse Viren wins 5000m gold in Montreal
Lasse Virén of Finland winning gold in the 5,000 meters in Montreal

When you fall in a highly competitive race, it’s over for you, particularly for sprinters. But even in long-distance foot races, falling not only places you way in the back of the pack, it becomes a psychological burden as you see your competitors fly by you.

And yet, Lasse Virén of Finland was not fazed. Virén was competing in the 10,000 meters in the Munich Olympics in 1972. It was the 12th lap of a 25-lap race when Virén’s leg hit the leg of Belgian runner, Emiel Puttemans, sending Virén tumbling to the cinder track. Famed Tunisian runner, Mohamed Gammoudi, also took a nasty spill tripping over Virén’s body. Virén, who fell behind by 20 meters, got up quickly, and re-started those long strides, getting back into the race after four laps.

In the last lap and a half, Virén stepped on the gas. But as this thrilling account from The Guardian relates, the man whose leg sent Virén to the ground 12 laps earlier was now breathing down Virén’s back.

At the bell, Virén raised the pace yet again, and Yifter was unable to respond. The air was suddenly too thick for his limbs. But Puttemans held on. The small Belgian, his face contorting with determination, closed the slight gap that Virén had opened up. ‘I believed I had a chance to win the gold medal,’ he said later. ‘Lasse was five metres ahead and I knew I must take my chance going into the final bend.’ So Puttemans moved on to Virén’s shoulder. The Finn accelerated. ‘As we came round to the home straight,’ Puttemans said, ‘I knew the gold was his.’ You could see Puttemans absorb this painful truth, but make an instantaneous reappraisal of ambition: he looked over his shoulder, to make sure Yifter was far enough behind him to be no threat, and settled for silver.

Virén not only won, but smashed the world record for the 10,000 meter race that had stood for seven years. Virén went on to win the 5,000 meter competition in the Munich Games, accomplishing the so-called “double”, which had been done only three times prior to Virén, and three times after him. Even more amazingly, Virén did it again, winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m races at the Montreal Games in 1976, the only “Double-Double” ever.

You can watch Virén years later watching himself win the 10,000 meter race in Munich on video below.

Takuji Hayata in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
Takuji Hayata in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

He grew up in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, dreaming of becoming a tuna fisherman like so many of the adults in his town.

But at the age of ten, he would walk around on his hands, and everybody began calling him “Handstand Boy”. His natural physical gifts eventually led to attendance at the best university for gymnastics in the strongest country for gymnastics – Nippon University in Japan. And he would go on to Olympic glory in Tokyo and Montreal.

In 1960 at Rome, Japan won its first of five straight Olympic team championships. So for Takuji Hayata (早田卓次), the youngest member of the 1964 team, it was initially intimidating to join the Japan gymnastics team. “Four of the six team members competed in Rome, including Yamashita Haruhiro who had a technique named after him. I was happy, but I was an unknown, so could I really make a contribution,” he wondered in an interview.

Takuji_Hayata_1977_Paraguay_stamp
Paraguayan stamp of Takuji Hayata

As it turned out, Japan won gold in the men’s team gymnastics in 1964, with Hayata taking gold in the individual rings competition. But Hayata explains that becoming a champion was not easy. He said the gymnastics coach was a perfectionist and a taskmaster.

Upon waking every day, his coach insisted that he do one hour of electromyostimulation, then three hours on core gymnastics, followed by resistance training to build up muscle. Hayata had to keep his weight down, as he had to work hard to drop about 2.5 kgs a day, which he did by running or sweating off the weight in a sauna. On top of that, his coach filmed everything, pointing out every mistake.

As a result, Hayata was in top shape. But two-and-a-half months before the opening of the Tokyo Games, his father went to the hospital and passed away. “A year before the Olympics I was in excellent condition and I enjoyed working out daily,” he said in this speech at his induction into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2004. “I was selected and attended the training camp with great joy. I didn’t want to sleep. However, my healthy father suddenly became ill and passed away. People worried about me. All my friends came to comfort me. So at the age of 24 on my birthday (which happened to be the day of the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Games), I wanted to do my best for my father.”

Hayata of course did do his best, not only for his father but for his home town. He said that during the Olympic Games, prior to his competition, he got a letter from his junior high school in Tanabe. A student had drawn a picture of him on

Bruce and Caitlyn_cover to coverI watched the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. I remember watching Nadia Comaneci and her perfect 10s. I remember the Japanese gymnast (Shun Fujimoto) who helped his team to gold dismounting from the rings on a broken right knee. And I remember Bruce Jenner being crowned the World’s Greatest Athlete in the decathlon competition.

Bruce was the epitome of the all-American hero. He appeared countless times on Wheaties. (Who the heck eats Wheaties, I have no idea.) He was the 70’s platonic image of masculinity. For so many Americans, he was, The Man. And yet, as he told Sawyer in April, “Bruce – always telling a lie. He’s lived a lie his whole life about who he is. I can’t do that any longer.”

From 17 million viewers in a ground-breaking interview with Diane Sawyer to the cover of Vanity Fair, Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner, has become the center of attention again, over 40 years later. As The New York Times reports, “…the physical copy of the (Vanity Fair) magazine with