1984 Los Angeles Olympics
Los Angeles was host to the Summer Olympics 25 years ago. This third part of a 16-day series looks back at Day 3, Monday, July 30, 1984:
The big news
The U.S. boxing team was out to match the 1952 and 1976 U.S. teams that had each won five Olympic gold medals. Paul Gonzales, a light-flyweight from East L.A., got it off to an impressive start by routing his toughest competition, Korea’s Kwang Sun Kim, at the Sports Arena. Though Kim was ranked No. 2 in the world and Gonzales No. 3, the smallest boxer on the U.S. team had predicted he would win the gold medal and this match had people suddenly believing it.
Meanwhile, teammate Evander Holyfield, the No. 1 light-heavyweight, also advanced, easily stopping Taju Akay of Ghana in the third round. And middleweight Virgil Hill easily beat Edward Neblett of Barbados. All three Americans were lifted up by the raucous, U.S. flag-waving crowd.
The big surprise
Pat Spurgin won the women’s air rifle gold medal at age 18 with a score of 393 out of 400, the highest American score in history and two points behind the Olympic record of 395. Spurgin set her gun down to take a break and had 12 minutes to complete her final five shots -- then shot four nines and a 10 to win. She became America’s first women’s Olympic air rifle champion.
Spurgin, now Pat Pitney, lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and volunteers as an assistant rifle coach at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She said she didn’t shoot well early in the competition, but focused and improved as time passed.
“I just took a deep breath and kind of asked myself, ‘Are you going to do what you came here to do?’ and was able to pull back together and finished well,” she said.
Pitney said the fact that her family -- her parents, brother, sister, uncle and even her coach from her hometown -- could see her compete made the Games special.
“Having the U.S. flag flying and hearing the national anthem in any international competition was something we always talked about,” she said. “You wanted to hear your anthem, you didn’t want to hear someone else’s.”
Gonzales runs a boxing program for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation.
“I told myself that when I go back home, I’m going to back with a gold medal and a limousine,” Gonzales said. “I got home with a limousine and a gold medal around my neck.”
The 1984 Olympics “was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I mean everything that was going on, the camaraderie, things that were actually happening with our team.”
From the archives
USC’s Cheryl Miller scored 23 points as the favored U.S. women’s team began its quest for its first Olympic gold medal with an 83-55 victory over Yugoslavia. “Cheryl has so much self-motivation, I don’t have to push any button,” U.S. Coach Pat Summitt told reporters. “I know it’s there.”
Bela Karolyi, coach of American gymnast Mary Lou Retton. Although Retton was spectacular in the opening session -- including a 9.90 in the vault -- Karolyi (who had defected from Romania three years earlier) accused Romanian judge Julia Roterescu of unfairly lowering the scores of the Americans, especially that of Tracee Talavera on the balance beam. “They should kick those judges out!” Karolyi said at the time. “They should kick them out and say to them, ‘Go do agriculture!’ ”
-- Bill Brink