U.S. men pulled off a stunner in gymnastics
Los Angeles was host to the Summer Olympics 25 years ago. This third part of a 16-day series looks back at Day 4, Tuesday, July 31, 1984:
The big news
The U.S. men’s gymnastics team managed to hold its lead over the favored Chinese team -- and its star Li Ning -- to win the gold medal, setting an Olympic record in the process with a score of 591.4. The Americans had never won gold in team gymnastics and hadn’t even medaled in 52 years. UCLA’s Mitch Gaylord took a risk by attempting a difficult trick he had developed -- the Gaylord II -- and pulled it off. Tim Daggett, Gaylord’s UCLA teammate, scored one of the night’s seven perfect 10s at Pauley Pavilion.
The big surprise
Yes, the men’s gymnastics win was a surprise, but so was American Theresa Andrews, who unexpectedly won gold in the 100-meter backstroke, then gave the medal to her younger brother Dan, whose legs were paralyzed -- the result of being hit by a car while riding his bicycle.
“I really wanted to win a medal so I could give it to Danny,” she said at the time. “I saw him about an hour before the race and it helped me relax.”
Andrews had not even been expected to make the Olympic team.
Bart Conner, a member of the gold-medal gymnastics team who scored a perfect 10 on the parallel bars, runs a gymnastics academy and publishes a gymnastics magazine, International Gymnast. He is married to Romanian gold medal-winning gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
“It’s been all these years, but it’s sort of shaped our lives really,” he said of his gymnastics experience.
The 1984 Olympics, he said, remain special to him despite being his third Olympics.
“To march in the ceremonies, to be at home, to feel that enthusiasm from the crowd, there’s no more of a patriotic moment,” he said. “And to share it with your family, that was really cool.”
From the archives
In front of 63,624 at the Rose Bowl, the men’s U.S. soccer team lost to Italy, 1-0. But the real buzz was over the attendance. As then-staff writer Randy Harvey wrote: “The truly amazing thing was that tournament officials were disappointed because there were not more fans there. . . . Perhaps someday if the sport ever finds its way into the nation’s heartland, this will be remembered as the tournament that started it all.”
Spotlight on . . .
The U.S. baseball team, which beat Taiwan, 2-1, with a lineup of amateur players in front of 52,319 at Dodger Stadium. Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and B.J. Surhoff, who all went on to play in the major leagues, were members of the team. In 1984, baseball was a demonstration sport, meaning games were played but no medals awarded.
-- Bill Brink