Tag Archives: 1992 Olympics

Remembering Mark Lenzi

ImageI shouldn’t be reading the obituaries of my Olympic heroes.  I’m getting older, but not old enough yet to read of their passing.  This morning I was greeted with the news of Mark Lenzi’s death.  The two-time Olympic diver who won gold in 1992 and bronze in 1996, died yesterday in Greenville, North Carolina where he’d served as diving coach for Eastern Carolina University.  He was only 43.

Mark Lenzi didn’t follow a traditional path in becoming a two-time Olympic medalist.  He hadn’t grown up in a diving family.  He hadn’t started in gymnastics and then switched to diving.  Lenzi was a wrestler, his short build well suited to the sport.  But after watching Greg Louganis win gold in 1984, Linzi was inspired to switch sports.  Just eight years later, Lenzi was inspiring others who watched him clinch Olympic gold in 1992 on the 3-meter springboard, and again in 1996 when he came out of retirement to win a bronze at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

In 1992 Lenzi was part of a men’s Olympic team that no longer had its anchor Greg Louganis and was struggling somewhat to find its identity.  Louganis had retired, opening the door for others to emerge, such as Kent Ferguson and Scott Donie.  Yet it was Lenzi who stole the spotlight, earning 9’s from the judges to become the 1992 Olympic Champion in men’s 3-meter springboard diving. No American male diver has won gold since.

It was Lenzi’s bronze medal in 1996, though, that perhaps is more memorable to fans.  Following his 1992 win, Lenzi retired; and like so many other athletes, he struggled with depression.  Struggled with life in a post-Olympics world once the reporters and endorsement deals disappeared.  Lenzi was very candid in discussing how he hit Imagerock bottom after the 1992 Games, and he played an active role in lobbying the USOC to set up a counseling program for ex-Olympians.  So in 1995 when he decided to return to diving, he came back for different reasons.  He wasn’t aiming for a medal, but rather for personal fulfillment.  In many ways, Lenzi’s bronze medal, his third place finish, was much sweeter than Olympic Gold four years earlier.

The world didn’t just lose an Olympic medalist with Mark Lenzi’s passing.  We lost an Olympian who truly embodied the Olympic spirit.  His determination to pull himself out of the throes of depression was inspiring to many, both athletes and fans, and it served as a reminder to me that the medal isn’t always the most important goal.  Lenzi also decided to give back to his sport, raising awareness about mental illness among Olympians and coaching divers on the collegiate level.  Lenzi may have retired from competitive diving, but he continued to give back to the sport and the international movement which helped mold him into the person he became.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger.

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Filed under Diving

Jim Redmond: Tender Father, Generous Friend

The tender father, and the gen’rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that fear’d no human pride;
The friend of man-to vice alone a foe….

–Robert Burns

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Filed under Athletics/Track & Field

Some Gymnastics Favorites

With all the recent news about China and Shawn Johnson, I’ve been in a gymnastics phase.  All this research and writing has taken me down memory lane, so I just wanted to share two of my favorite performances in gymnastics history:

Lavinia Milosovici – 1992 Olympics – Floor Exercise

Shannon Miller, 1992 Olympics – Floor Exercise

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From the Olympic Fanatic Vault: The Bald Eagles of Barcelona

"The Bald Eagles of Barcelona"

In 2012 when the Olympics take place in London, it will be the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.  I still shake my head as I type this, finding it hard to fathom that I’m really this old.  In 1992, I was a teenager, having just graduated from high school, and was visiting one of my brothers during the first week of the Olympics.  Of course, knowing his little sister was a fanatic, my brother and his wife realized I would be planted in front of their television most days.  (Thankfully, there was a sleeper sofa in their den!)

It was a wonderful Olympic Games, and for this Olympic Fanatic, much more enjoyable than the Games in Seoul four years earlier.    I have many fond memories from those Games which I still look back on with the mind of an 18 year-old.  Barcelona pulled off a spectacular opening ceremony which included an unforgettable lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by Paralympics archer Antonio Rebollo.   Heroes such as Devers, Scherbo, Redmond, and Popov were born during these Games, and veterans like Evans, Biondi, and Ashford did not disappoint.    Yet none of this came to mind this morning when pondering a new idea for a blog post; rather, it was the story of “The Bald Eagles of Barcelona.”

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Filed under Volleyball