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Biofile Bruce Jenner Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon. 1972 Olympian.

Ht: 6-2 Wt: 195

DOB: October 28, 1949 In: Mount Kisco, NY

Childhood Heroes: “Joe Namath, Bob Matthias, Jim Thorpe, Rafer Johnson, Milt Campbell, Bill Toomey – all the decathlon guys who went before me and won it. To me, it was the toughest thing in sports to do – to run the Olympic decathlon. In those circumstances, under those conditions, it’s so difficult to win. And I consider myself a pretty good athlete and this was the ultimate test. And so I really respected the guys who had done it in the past and had come through.”

Nicknames: “Jennerator. I know. Don’t ask. In high school I was like the fastest guy in my fifth grade and they would say, Hey, there’s the Jennerator, man. That’s a nickname, I used to go with that. But don’t telll anybody, okay? Nobody’s listening, right [smiles]?”

Hobbies/Interests: “Working out, playing some golf, avid aviator – I fly, I’ve got my own aircraft sales company. Sell corporate jets and things like that. Time with family. Tomorrow I’ll be in Tahoe skiing with my kids.”

Early Track Memory: “My biggest thrill. I remember the first time I ever pole-vaulted. Sleepy Hollow High School, Tarrytown, NY, 1964. Had to be about 14. 1964 – my God, that’s a long time ago. But anyway. My first pole-vaulting experience. I’m on the path, like being a pole-vaulter is, like, so cool. You go down there, get the pole, you go up in the air. This looks like fun. So I practice a couple of days and I went out in my first competition. The bar was 8-ft, 6-inches – big height. They had those old, metal, triangular-shaped crossbars. And I went running down that runway, got my feet over the bar, but I couldn’t get my head off the pole and off that bar. And took that metal crossbar and hit my lip, sliced my lip wide open. I pulled my head back and they had the old sawdust sandpit. That’s how far back we’re going. Bang. I landed in the pit on my back. Knocked the wind out of me. I’m sitting there with my mouth bleeding, trying to gasp for air. Thought I broke my tooth. And that was my introduction to track and field – the pit at Sleepy Hollow High School. Never thinking I’d go quite as far as I did. But it was kind of a slow start. But I kept on going, kept on going.”

Pre-Competition Feeling: “I loved being in the heat of the moment. I look at it: there’s an athletic body, then there’s the athletic mind. You train the athletic body all year ’round. But when it gets to the athletic competition – it’s the athletic mind that’s gonna get you through. If you’ve done the work, you’ve done the miles, you’ve lifted the weights, you worked on the technique – on the day of the competition, how do you overcome everything? You take golf – it’s a great mind sport. Everybody there has the ability to have the shots to win the tournament. Who wins? It’s the guys that are strong mentally. So for me that was always the key. There’s an enormous amount of pressure. But pressure for me was always something that made me think. Gotta be smart when I feel the pressure. Gotta be the smartest athlete out there. I can’t lose my head. I have to know where I’m at. I would take fear and put it three feet behind me. I’d never let it get in front of me. I always wanted it to push me into the heat of the battle, and not bang up against fear and let it slow me down. I want it pushing me.”

“The whole idea is when you get in the locker room before the big fight and before the big competition, is being able to control all those emotions. To make them work for you and not against you. Don’t make the mistakes. You look at sports today – the mental errors are the mistakes from winning and losing. Very rarely is it a physical error. It’s a mental error. And you’ve got to be mentally tough and that was my forte. I didn’t have the great physical skills but I was strong mentally. And could bring out that performance on that day. So when you get into the heat of the battle, that was the name of the game.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “For me personally – you can’t not go with winning the Olympic Games was pretty exciting for me. That was 1976. But the biggest thrill – because I was the favorite going in – I planned, I calculated, I was the world record holder. I broke the world record. The way I did it was extremely thrilling. But making it on the team in 1972, four years earlier, my first Olympic Games, was the biggest thrill I ever had. Because I wasn’t ranked in the top 10 in the United States. Nobody knew who I was. You go to the Olympic Trials, you place in the top three – I was in 11th place after the first five events. Never thinking I had a chance. And getting down to the final event, the 1500 meters, then all of a sudden, there I was. I had to beat this guy by 18 seconds. I was in fifth, he was in third. Beat him by an eight-second personal best time in the 1500 meters. I never thought I could run it that fast. Beat him by 21 seconds. Made it on the team by the skin of my teeth. And nobody was more shocked than I was that I was on the Olympic team. And I had the whole summer planned doing other things, doing this and that. Now I’m running in the Games. That was the biggest thrill because I never expected to do something like that. Then all of a sudden, BANGO. There I was and I came through under the pressure. So that would have to be the most thrilling moment for me. The most satisfying moment was winning the Games four years later. Then walking away. I never did it again after that. I retired, moved on in life. Sports is nothing but a game. It’s not really life. So I moved on in life.”

Most Painful Moment: “Happened one year before The Games, Santa Barbara, CA. Our national championships in track and field. I had lost the edge. Something was wrong. I had trained so hard but I was right at the level I was the year before. And I no-heighted in the vault. And it was the only meet I lost in the last three years of my career. And it was really the greatest defeat that I ever had. Because it made me sit down and think about what I was doing. I was devastated. I was screaming and crying off in the bushes. I ran out of the stadium and was gone. I just couldn’t believe I no-heighted in the vault. Stupidest thing I’d ever done. And I always thought I was pretty mentally tough. But it was actually the greatest thing that ever happened. Because I had to sit down and seriously evaluate what I was doing in life. And what I was going after. And I came back six weeks alter and broke the world record for the first time. It had a drastic change in my life. By the way I perceived what I was doing, how important it was for me to win. And I pretty much kept that attitude pretty much all the way through The Games a year later. Then moved on in life. But that was devastating. But that was devastating. But it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. If I had not missed all four times at that height, who knows what would have happened after that. But it had the impact on me. Big, big, big impact on me. I broke the world record three times out of the next four meets. So I was a different human being.”

Favorite Movies: “The Right Stuff – remember that? So good, so well done. I’m a big fan of aviation. Very well done. About the astronauts going up there and what they had to overcome. And I can’t even imagine sitting up atop this bomb basically, ready to go off – not knowing if you’re going to live through the experience. The movie’s not only good and fun and exciting to watch but they show true, humble heroes – people in life that have done great things, overcome tremendous obstacles. And done it with dignity and style. And I thought those guys did.”

Musical Tastes: “Lots of styles, kinds of music. Have a lot of kids so I listen to a lot of rap. Oh, no, it’s not my favorite music, but anyway the only reason they invented rap music is just so would say to my kids, Turn that stuff down. Because when I was growing up, my parents saying, Turn the Beatles off. I’ll never say anything like that. But I enjoy rock ‘n roll. Just depends on my day. I enjoy rock ‘n roll, symphony music, the Three Tenors. It just depends on the mood that day. But I have a wide variety of things that I enjoy.”

Favorite TV Shows: “I Love Lucy. All those classics. I like the shows that have stood the test of time. C.H.I.P.S. [laughs]. Just kidding. I did a bunch of episodes for C.H.I.P.S. Stood the test of time. My God, it’s still in re-runs. Kind of scary. Discovery, Learning Channels, I like watching things where I can learn something from.”

Favorite Meal: “Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, lots of gravy. Maybe some vegetables, corn, beans.”

Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Wheaties of course. Wheaties is my favorite. How can it be anything else!

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Half vanilla, half strawberry, Haagen Dasz. And then if you’re really crazy, you put some crushed Famous Amos cookies on top. That’s when you really need a quick fix.”

First Job: “Oberg’s Texaco in Newtown, CT, pumping gas (age 16).”

First Car: “’54 Cadillac hearse. Some guy down the street was selling it for $150. It was transportation. Plenty of room in the back for my friends.”

Funny Career Memory: “What went through my mind at the finish line. You win The Games, 1500 final, I put my hands up, screamed so loudly, face contorted, I thought I blew out my vocal chords! Four years earlier, a guy took the shot and he sends me the picture. For three years I looked at the picture on my wall. I wondered what will the picture look like when I cross the line in ’76? First thing that crossed my mind was: I blew the picture. By screaming. For a moment I felt like going back and doing it over again! In the ’72 picture I looked graceful with a beautiful stride. It’s kind of funny – shows how I visualize every step of the experience. Then I saw the picture later on the Wheaties box – I loved it. Actually, that’s what went through my mind when I crossed that finish line to win the gold medal. But I usually give a very flowery, sugary answer [smiles].”

About Mark Malinowski

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