Thursday, August 7, 2014

Classic Sports Thursday - remembering 1984

It's only fitting Classic Sports Thursday goes back 30 years to the Olympics . . .

BREAKING . . . .Pauley Pavilion, the venue in question for today's article, was flooded by a water main break in California. The main floor is damaged and will be out of commission as a temporary floor will likely be used on campus for the time being.

With the Soviets out of commission at the Olympics, Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion (the gymnastics venue) seemed to become an East Bloc battle of Romania, the sole survivors from the boycott. What we didn't know then was the Romanians were falsifying ages just to compete, as it took 18 years, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and an innocent marriage licence application in Cobb County, Georgia to confirm the truth. (Daniela Silivas entered senior gymnastics competitions at 13 when the minimum age had just been raised to 15; after her engagement to Scott Harper, and during the time leading to her wedding, she admitted the the age falsification, as she was 31, not 33 as her international competition passport said, in order to comply with Cobb County authorities.)

Yet when Romanian coach Bela Karolyi defected on a tour of the United States in 1981, he and wife Marta settled in Texas. Little did they know how a 13-year old rising star from West Virginia, the daughter of Jerry West's teammate on the 1959 West Virginia basketball team, and a Hershey's National Track and Field Games participant would become the most celebrated project, with recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery just six weeks beforehand, and with a superhuman recovery, she made it back to the Games. Little did we know the legacy that sixteen year-old did thirty years ago, on August 3, 1984. She defeated Ekaterina Szabo with that perfect ten on the vault, by the slimmest of margins, and being nicknamed the matriarch of American gymnastics.

How would we have known Mary Lou Retton now, at 46 and the mother of rising American elite gymnast McKenna Kelley, who tied for the win at an elite meet in February?

We celebrate her victory at Pauley Pavilion this week.

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