1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Thursday “An Olympian–A Life Well Lived”

Posted by on December 3rd, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

-0-

“Olympian—-1 Great Event….1 Great Lifetime”

-0-

Athletes come in all sizes, shapes and talent levels.

They play for years upon years in their sport, reach the heights of popularity, earning power, and accomplishments.

We marvel at what Tom Brady has done, what Gordy Howe accomplished, the feats of Nolan Ryan or LeBron James.

Rafer Johnson accomplished so much coming out of UCLA.  And he did it just one time, in 1-Olympic.

What he did was set a standard of excellence in his event, the decathlon.

It led him to greater heights as a contributor to society.  His accomplishments after his career as an athlete was over, are greater than what he did in 1960 in Rome.

What he did from 1960 to 2020 is what he should be remembered for.

An obituary worth reading for a man whose “Life was Well Lived”

—————–

Rafer Johnson, who carried the American flag into Rome’s Olympic Stadium in August 1960 as the first Black captain of a United States Olympic team and went on to win gold in a memorable decathlon duel, bringing him acclaim as the world’s greatest all-around athlete, died on Wednesday at his home in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles. He was 86.

Michael Roth, a family friend and spokesman, confirmed the death.

Johnson never competed after that decathlon triumph. He became a good-will ambassador for the United States and a close associate of the Kennedy family, taking a leadership role in the Special Olympics, which were championed by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and joining Robert F. Kennedy’s entourage during Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968. He was remembered especially for helping to wrestle the senator’s assassin to the ground in Los Angeles in 1968.

Johnson’s national profile was largely molded at the 1960 Olympics, one of the most celebrated in the history of the Games, a moment when a host of African-American athletes burst triumphantly onto the world stage. Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay, captured boxing gold in the light-heavyweight division. Wilma Rudolph swept to victory in the women’s 100- and 200-meter dashes and combined with her Tennessee State teammates for gold in the 4 x 100 relay. Oscar Robertson helped take the United States basketball team to a gold medal.

Johnson had been chosen to speak on behalf of the American Olympians at a sendoff rally at City Hall in New York.
ADVERTISEMENT
Continue reading the main story

He “flawlessly called out the names of the dozens of teammates who stood at his side,” David Maraniss wrote in “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World” (2008). “He had a firm grasp of the occasion, and team officials took notice. His performance in New York, along with his stature as the gold medal favorite in the decathlon, convinced the officials that Johnson should be the U.S. captain in Rome and the first black athlete to carry the U.S. flag at an Olympic opening ceremonies.

“There could be no more valuable figure in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, which wasted no opportunity to denounce the racial inequities of the United States.”

Gift Subscriptions to The Times, Cooking and Games.
Starting at $25.
Johnson’s narrow decathlon victory over C.K. Yang of Taiwan and U.C.L.A., a good friend, provided a thrilling moment in its own right.

Johnson, a 25-year-old graduate of U.C.L.A. and a chiseled 6 feet 3 inches and 200 pounds, was the favorite going into the two-day decathlon, a 10-event test of versatility, strength, speed and endurance that included sprints, high hurdles, pole-vaulting, the high jump and broad jump, the javelin and discus throws, and the 1,500-meter run.
Editors’ Picks

‘The Crown’ Stokes an Uproar Over Fact vs. Entertainment

Amanda Seyfried Finally Stakes Her Claim

The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders
Continue reading the main story

Image
Johnson winning a heat in the 100-meter dash, the first event in the decathlon, at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He went on to win the gold medal.Credit…Associated Press
He had won silver in the decathlon at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, finishing behind Milt Campbell of the U.S., who turned to pro football afterward. He had bested Vasily Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union at a meet at Lenin Stadium in Moscow in 1958, inspiring spectators to put aside Cold War issues and cheer his achievement. And he scored a world-record 8,683 points in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympic track and field trials in Oregon.
ADVERTISEMENT
Continue reading the main story

But he faced a stiff challenge in Rome from the 27-year-old Yang, who was representing Formosa, the Olympic designation at the time for Taiwanese athletes. Both were trained by Elvin Drake, known as Ducky, the U.C.L.A. track and field coach.

The decathlon duel was decided in its final event, the 1,500 meters, in which Yang was especially strong. Johnson, leading on points, didn’t have to win the event to capture the gold medal, but he did need to finish within 10 seconds of Yang.

“I planned to stick with him like a buddy in combat,” Johnson told The Los Angeles Times in 1990. “I had one other advantage, and I don’t think C.K. knew this at the time. This was my last decathlon. I was prepared to run as fast as I had to in this last race of my life.”

THE MORNING: Make sense of the day’s news and ideas. David Leonhardt and Times journalists guide you through what’s happening — and why it matters.
Sign Up
Yang, who died in 2007, recalled, “I knew he would never let go of me unless he collapsed.” Johnson finished 1.2 seconds behind Yang, good enough to capture gold, with Yang getting silver and Kuznetsov capturing bronze.

Image
Johnson with his friend and competitor C.K. Yang after completing the decisive 1,500-meter event in the decathlon in the 1960 Games in Rome. Johnson narrowly beat Yang for the gold medal. Credit…Keystone/Getty Images
Johnson later received the 1960 Sullivan Award as America’s leading amateur athlete. After that, he embarked on new chapters in his life.Rafer Johnson, who carried the American flag into Rome’s Olympic Stadium in August 1960 as the first Black captain of a United States Olympic team and went on to win gold in a memorable decathlon duel, bringing him acclaim as the world’s greatest all-around athlete, died on Wednesday at his home in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles. He was 86.

Michael Roth, a family friend and spokesman, confirmed the death.

Johnson never competed after that decathlon triumph. He became a good-will ambassador for the United States and a close associate of the Kennedy family, taking a leadership role in the Special Olympics, which were championed by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and joining Robert F. Kennedy’s entourage during Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968. He was remembered especially for helping to wrestle the senator’s assassin to the ground in Los Angeles in 1968.

Johnson’s national profile was largely molded at the 1960 Olympics, one of the most celebrated in the history of the Games, a moment when a host of African-American athletes burst triumphantly onto the world stage. Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay, captured boxing gold in the light-heavyweight division. Wilma Rudolph swept to victory in the women’s 100- and 200-meter dashes and combined with her Tennessee State teammates for gold in the 4 x 100 relay. Oscar Robertson helped take the United States basketball team to a gold medal.

Johnson had been chosen to speak on behalf of the American Olympians at a sendoff rally at City Hall in New York.
ADVERTISEMENT
Continue reading the main story

He “flawlessly called out the names of the dozens of teammates who stood at his side,” David Maraniss wrote in “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World” (2008). “He had a firm grasp of the occasion, and team officials took notice. His performance in New York, along with his stature as the gold medal favorite in the decathlon, convinced the officials that Johnson should be the U.S. captain in Rome and the first black athlete to carry the U.S. flag at an Olympic opening ceremonies.

“There could be no more valuable figure in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, which wasted no opportunity to denounce the racial inequities of the United States.”

Gift Subscriptions to The Times, Cooking and Games.
Starting at $25.
Johnson’s narrow decathlon victory over C.K. Yang of Taiwan and U.C.L.A., a good friend, provided a thrilling moment in its own right.

Johnson, a 25-year-old graduate of U.C.L.A. and a chiseled 6 feet 3 inches and 200 pounds, was the favorite going into the two-day decathlon, a 10-event test of versatility, strength, speed and endurance that included sprints, high hurdles, pole-vaulting, the high jump and broad jump, the javelin and discus throws, and the 1,500-meter run.
Editors’ Picks

‘The Crown’ Stokes an Uproar Over Fact vs. Entertainment

Amanda Seyfried Finally Stakes Her Claim

The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders
Continue reading the main story

Image
Johnson winning a heat in the 100-meter dash, the first event in the decathlon, at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He went on to win the gold medal.Credit…Associated Press
He had won silver in the decathlon at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, finishing behind Milt Campbell of the U.S., who turned to pro football afterward. He had bested Vasily Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union at a meet at Lenin Stadium in Moscow in 1958, inspiring spectators to put aside Cold War issues and cheer his achievement. And he scored a world-record 8,683 points in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympic track and field trials in Oregon.
ADVERTISEMENT
Continue reading the main story

But he faced a stiff challenge in Rome from the 27-year-old Yang, who was representing Formosa, the Olympic designation at the time for Taiwanese athletes. Both were trained by Elvin Drake, known as Ducky, the U.C.L.A. track and field coach.

The decathlon duel was decided in its final event, the 1,500 meters, in which Yang was especially strong. Johnson, leading on points, didn’t have to win the event to capture the gold medal, but he did need to finish within 10 seconds of Yang.

“I planned to stick with him like a buddy in combat,” Johnson told The Los Angeles Times in 1990. “I had one other advantage, and I don’t think C.K. knew this at the time. This was my last decathlon. I was prepared to run as fast as I had to in this last race of my life.”

THE MORNING: Make sense of the day’s news and ideas. David Leonhardt and Times journalists guide you through what’s happening — and why it matters.
Sign Up
Yang, who died in 2007, recalled, “I knew he would never let go of me unless he collapsed.” Johnson finished 1.2 seconds behind Yang, good enough to capture gold, with Yang getting silver and Kuznetsov capturing bronze.

Image
Johnson with his friend and competitor C.K. Yang after completing the decisive 1,500-meter event in the decathlon in the 1960 Games in Rome. Johnson narrowly beat Yang for the gold medal. Credit…Keystone/Getty Images
Johnson later received the 1960 Sullivan Award as America’s leading amateur athlete. After that, he embarked on new chapters in his life.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *