Thursday, August 12, 2021

Thursday Thirteen past Olympics


I wanted to post this last week before the games ended, but I was so busy!  There are several former Olympians that stand out in my memory. Some may stand out for you because they were popular icons in their time.


1. Mary Lou Retton - There will be a lot of gymnasts on this list because it's my favorite sport!  She won a gold, two silvers and 2 bronzes.  She was the first American female to win gold in gymnastics, and she achieved the perfect 10 twice!

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2. Greg Louganis - He won four gold medals in diving (another sport I like to watch)in the '84 and '88 Olympics.  Now he is a motivational speaker.  I remember him mostly because he hit his head on the springboard and opened up a whole controversy about not stating that his blood had tested HIV positive. That was a big deal in those days.

3. Nadia Comaneci - Another gymnast, 14 years old, from Romania, who scored a perfect 10 4 years before Mary Lou Retton.  This was a score people previously thought was unreachable.  She is also why Bella Karolyi became famous.

4.  Florence Griffith Joyner - FloJo had the mojo!  In 1988 she set world record for the 100 and 200 meters.  Unfortunately, she passed away due to epilepsy in 1988.

I can't mention FloJo and not mention the next one, her sister-in-law.

5. Jackie Joyner-Kersee - She has participated in 4 different Olympics.  She's got dozens of medals and awards and has been called the greatest female athlete in the world.  She still holds the heptathlon record.  She runs her own foundation in St. Louis.

6. Mark Spitz - He competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics as a swimmer.  He won numerous medals, but I remember him for 2 unusual reasons.  1, his name rhymes with Schlitz (a lager my dad occasionally kept in the refrigerator) and 2.  his mustache.

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7.  Maggie Nichols - You may not have heard her name before because she was excluded from the 2016 Olympics, partly because she was recovering from an injury and partly because she had just reported Larry Nassar, the USA gymnastics team physician, for sexual harassment.  If you've never watched the Netflix documentary Athlete A, I highly recommend it.

8. Gabby Douglas - What a fantastic gymnast and a beautiful, graceful woman!  She's also just six months older than my twins.  She has won many medals and does not give up when faced with a stressful situation.  She also wrote an autobiography titled Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith.  Mattell also used her as a model for gymnast Barbie.

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9.  Nancy Kerrigan - She was a figure skater who I remember, not because she did well, although she did, but because Tonya Harding planned an attack on her right leg, her landing leg, out of jealousy.  It was publicized so much; who could forget?

10. Usain Bolt - The lightning bolt broke so many records and won multiple gold medals in multiple Olympic games.  But everybody loves that pose!

11. Kerri Strug - This little gymnast did her second vault with torn ankle ligaments and stuck the landing guaranteeing the women's team a gold medal.  That's spunk!  And loyalty!  She later became a teacher, but now she works for the US DOJ at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

12. Laurie Hernandez - She's so cute and perky on the beam and the floor!  She also represents Hispanic athletes since she is Puerto Rican and is coming out soon with a documentary on Peacock called True Colors.  It's also come to light that Laurie (and others) suffered abuse by her coach who has been banned from coaching gymnastics for a number of years.  I had her autobiography on my nonfiction reading shelf when I was a teacher.

13. Jesse Owens - This track star belongs on this list due to the racial prejudiced he endured in the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin under Nazi rule.  He sure showed them!  He came away with multiple gold medals and gave a lot of people hope.

For more fun lists, visit Thursday Thirteen!


  1. I remember most of these when they were common names in the culture, but not all.

  2. I remember many of these names, but like Colleen, not all of them. Mary Lou Retton was America's sweetheart for a long time, I think. The Kerrigan-Harding thing was surreal. A herald of things to come, I think, all the world over, as winning becomes the only thing that matters. Great list.

  3. Not sure if my previous comment went through so I'd just do another one to say "aloha"! - Liza

  4. I recognize some of the names, and who could forget Nancy Kerrigan, although most people probably remember Tonya Harding's more. I am not a big sports/Olympics fan or watcher, so don't know much about the people. Some I recognize from Wheaties boxes! Does that count! Mark Spitz was everywhere.

  5. Sorry, one last time; because I think I commented from a different account on my previous post. Aloha, Liza

  6. This list really brought back some memories of some amazing athletes! Mary Lou Retton... I idolized her!

  7. This is a great list. Mary Lou Retton was one of my favorites!


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