Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Mattel spokesperson confirmed they will stop production of the SeaWorld Trainer Barbie. In addition, they are cancelling plans to make ESPN Announcer and Cashier-insulting Barbie and the “I used to be a gold medal Decathlon winner” Barbie.

World's Greatest Athlete

Nobody has more of an appreciation for what Bruce Jenner accomplished as a Decathlete than I do.

To compete in the Decathlon (men) or Heptathlon (women) is to have a lifelong love affair with the event and those who compete in it. The Decathlon and Heptathlon are the two single greatest tests of athletic ability. The winners are truly the World’s Greatest Athletes.

My Decathlon experience was a tale of two extremes. 

From the ages of 13 to 17, although I trained hard - you have to train hard to compete in a Decathlon - I won easily and set all the age group records: 13, 14, 15 and 16-year-old records. Four National records and two world records.

The 16-year-old record I set in 1975 traveling from Chicago to California to compete in the 3rd annual Junior (19 and Under) National Decathlon Championship at Cal State Hayward. I was the youngest competitor by two years and, although I did not place in the top three, I set the National 16-year-old record at 6032 points.

As I was closely following Bruce Jenner's '74/'75 ascending Decathlon career in "Track and Field News," I was one of Jenner's earliest and most ardent fans. In my mind, there was no reason why I wouldn't be the next, albeit slightly less pretty, Bruce Jenner. 

One month later, just after my 17th birthday, I pulled my hamstring running a 4.5 40 for football. My football coach forced me to play in a game two weeks later and I tore what was left of the hamstring for good. Although I did not know it at the time, my athletic career was over at the ripe old age of 17*.

The next four to five years was an odyssey of hamstring injuries and searing back pain. By the time I was 22, I had only competed in two or three more Decathlons with mediocre to embarrassing results.

And yet I got to train as a member of the UC Santa Barbara track team with the greatest man and track coach of all time, the late Sam Adams. And I trained with not only the greatest athletes, but the greatest people I have ever met all of whom, I am proud to say 36 years later, are still my good friends. 

Despite the endless pain and frustration, training for the Decathlon in Santa Barbara was one of the greatest times of my life, thanks to the friends I made, and I would not trade it for anything.

So I had the rare experience of all the highs and the lows that come with training and competing for my beloved Decathlon. That is why my admiration for what Bruce Jenner accomplished is second to none.

And this is with the caveat of the belief Bruce Jenner cheated with steroids.

In Jenner's defense, all the top Decathletes of that Seventies to Eighties era used steroids. But Jenner went from a scary skinny 6.2, 180 pounds in Munich in 1972 to a jacked 220 in Montreal in 1976. (He lied and said he weighed only 195) And that 40 pounds was packed on despite Jenner's desperate attempts to keep weight off by running a ludicrous-for-training-for-the-Decathlon 50 miles a week.

The most telling aspect of Jenner’s steroid use was not just the 40 pounds of pure muscle he put on before Montreal. It was the almost immediate loss of the same 40 pounds six months after he stopped competing. That simply does not happen naturally. 

Although a poker game where everyone is cheating is still crooked, the plain truth is all the top Decathletes were using steroids, so Jenner was on sort of on an even playing field. 

Steroids or not, setting a world record and winning a gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon is a Herculean task. Jenner set a stellar 7 personal records in Montreal. Steroids or not, Bruce Jenner was well deserving of the title World’s Greatest Athlete.

As a Decathlete, nobody has been more dissappointed in Bruce Jenner's post-Decathlon career. But I had no idea the length, breadth and depth of his pain due to his identity conflict. In my mind, winning an Olympic gold medal in the Decathlon would be the be-all do-all cure-all to all of life's ills. 

That was certainly not the case with Bruce Jenner and I feel bad for him. Nobody put a gun to his head to get married three times, have six kids, not spend much time with the first four children and then hitch his wagon to the Kardashian fame-whore, cash-cow star. 

But, as someone who admires what he did accomplish, I hope Bruce is happy in this new chapter of his life. He gave us Decathletes a lot to be proud of for a long time. 

So, yes, Bruce Jenner was the World’s Greatest Athlete. That is something of which everyone, especially Bruce, should be proud.