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John Moffet, Millennium Hall of Fame

Richard Dunn

It was a painful decision, one that John Moffet never thought about

before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

When you’re an Olympic swimmer and world-record holder in the men’s

100-meter breaststroke, you expect your greatest obstacle to be

competitors in the other lanes, not an ill-timed muscle tear in your leg.

A favorite to win the gold medal, Moffet severely injured his leg in the

morning preliminaries, but still qualified first and broke an Olympic

record in 1 minute 2.16 seconds.

Hours later, however, the former Newport Harbor High and Stanford

sensation could barely walk as he prepared for the championship finals.

“I felt incredible when I swam in the prelims on the first day of the

Olympics,” said Moffet, who pulled a muscle coming off the 50-meter wall

at USC, but was able to push himself through to the finish, touching the

wall only three-hundredths of a second off his world-record time.

“The pain doesn’t set in until afterward,” said Moffet, who recorded the

second-fastest time in history, but saw his leg turn black and blue,

along with increased inflammation, during the afternoon as he prepared

for the 4 p.m. start in the finals.

“I was watching it all crashing down in front of me,” he said of his

Olympic gold-medal dream. “I knew it was the end, because my leg just got

worse and worse.”

As his leg swelled and the start of the finals grew closer, Moffet was

staring at large needles filled with numbing agents, rather than focusing

on his start and turns.

“I knew getting (shot with Xylocaine) would probably make (the injury)

worse, but this was the Olympics ... and you’ve got to go for it,” Moffet

said. “I remember laying there (in the trainers’ tent), and I took a big

needle all up and down my right inner thigh. There was injection after

injection.”

Moffet missed the warmups for the finals, but tried to test his kick in

an adjacent diving pool. At first, he couldn’t kick, “then the Xylocaine

started to take affect and I could go through the motions of kicking,” he

added.

Moffet remembers being introduced in lane four at the Olympic finals by

the public-address announcer in front of about 10,000 fans, a

spine-tingling moment, but also one of distress.

“I didn’t even know if I could swim,” said Moffet, who tried to grin and

bear it, then finished fifth in the medal race as U.S. teammate Steve

Lundquist won the gold and broke Moffet’s world record.

Moffet set the world mark of 1:02.13 at the U.S. Olympic Trials four

weeks earlier in Indianapolis on June 25, 1984, when he pulled a groin

muscle. “You don’t hold anything back at the Olympic Trials,” said

Moffet, who also won the 200-meter breast at the Trials, an event he

dropped at the Olympic Games because of the injury.

After countless hours of training, Moffet was disappointed on his big day

at the ’84 Games, which became an interesting study of Olympic history

and a story that was featured in producer/director Bud Greenspan’s “16

Days of Glory” on television.

Moffet, whose career highlight was breaking the world record in the

100-meter breast, was a five-time individual NCAA champion at Stanford,

which also won NCAA team titles in 1985 and ’86, Moffet’s junior and

senior years.

Moffet had planned to compete in the 1980 Moscow Games before his junior

year at Newport Harbor, but stayed home that year along with every other

American athlete because of the President Carter-invoked boycott.

A 1982 Harbor graduate, Moffet made the U.S. Olympic swim team in 1980 in

the 200 breast, finishing second at the Olympic Trials and beating

veterans such as former world champion and Olympic gold medalist John

Hencken.

“Even though I was very young and had another Olympic team in me, it was

extremely painful,” Moffet said of missing the Moscow Games.

As the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played at the end of the Olympic

Trials, Moffet remembers his father saying to him, “It doesn’t sound

quite the same anymore, does it?”

Moffet said that summed up his feelings.

Moffet, who won his first national championship during his senior year in

high school in the 200 breast, was the youngest member of the ’80 U.S.

Olympic swim team at age 16.

A member of two NCAA championship relay teams at Stanford and member of

the world-record breaking 400-meter medley relay team (set at the 1985

Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo), Moffet was named the ’85 World

Breaststroker of the Year by Swimming World Magazine.

Moffet earned a swimming scholarship to Stanford, majored in design and

later attended Oxford University in England to study art history for a

semester.

Moffet, the latest honoree in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame, was a

CIF Southern Section 4-A champion in the breaststroke for Newport Harbor

in 1980 and ’81. He was inducted last year into the Stanford Athletic

Hall of Fame.

“I feel very lucky in a lot of ways to be able to accomplish almost every

conceivable goal in my swimming career, except win an Olympic gold

medal,” Moffet said. “It is not a tragic story. I feel very lucky and

blessed.”

A television producer and writer, Moffet lives in West LA with his wife,

Susan, and two children: Graham, 2 1/2, and Emma, six months. Moffet once

produced the show “Hard Copy,” and today produces “Behind the Music” for

VH1.

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Current depth, including heads, is 24.273 inches

or 146p2

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