SI Vault
William Johnson
July 17, 1972
For some champions the Olympics have meant enduring fame, for others they are only the memory of a transcendent instant of glory
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July 17, 1972

After The Golden Moment

For some champions the Olympics have meant enduring fame, for others they are only the memory of a transcendent instant of glory

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When she returned to the U.S., she was a celebrity. "Jarrett, my husband, was going to sue Brundage for kicking me off," she said, "but then we started getting all these fabulous offers and, well, he dropped it. I did all right after the Los Angeles Games, but 1936 made me a star—it made me a glamour girl! Just another gold medal would never have done that!"

Eleanor Holm has lived in her Miami Beach apartment for 11 years. "I play golf," she said. "Awful golf. One hundred and eighteen is my consistent score. My best is 106. I made a living doing interior decorating for a while. I was pretty good, too. But, my God, going up against those rich, showy broads. They'd have all this jewelry dripping off them. To impress them, when I was trying to get their decorating jobs, I'd run down to my bank vault and get out this one big rock that Rose gave me. I'd put it on and then go talk with them and I'd sit flashing that big rock back and forth in front of my face. Oh, they'd notice that rock, all right. Then when I was done selling them, I'd run back to the bank and put my rock back in the vault. I couldn't afford to insure it."


When he was 22, Herb Elliott was the most promising runner since Paavo Nurmi. He won the gold medal in the 1,500 in Rome and he held the world record in that distance and in the mile, an event that he never lost. Then he quit.

Elliott is now 34 and it is as if he had never been anything but what he is today, an ascending and extremely ambitious sales manager for Australian Portland Cement Ltd. He lives with his wife and six children in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin. "I believe life falls into categories," he said. "When you are a youngish sort of bloke, as I still class myself, your career has to be developed to a level that makes you happy. I am not happy by any means. There is a family to educate and a home to build and pay off. The first 15 or 20 years of married life must be a selfish sort of existence where job and family come first."

When asked what interest he has in track now, he answered sharply, "Nil." When asked if his celebrity as a medal winner had helped his career, he said, "No."

When asked if he ever appears before athletic associations, he said, "I accept those invitations only if they are for a very close friend or if they will help me in my job or if they will pay me."

Elliott discussed his brilliant running career as if he were discussing a stranger's. "When I first started, my only ambition was to be better than I was. This gradually leads you on until you are satisfied with what you have done. I didn't realize what my goal was until I felt satisfied. I felt satisfied when I won an Olympic gold medal and broke a world record. Once that hunger had been satiated, I lost interest altogether.

"Every time I ran it was an enormous strain on me, even if it was at a little country meeting. I hate the four or five hours before a race. I was twisted up and knotted up inside. It was a ghastly feeling. The nervousness and the pressure increased as my unbeaten record got longer. The pundits, the damned journalists would say, 'Today's the day Elliott's going to be knocked off,' and in England and all over the world tens of thousands of people would turn up just to see if I would be beaten. It was a drag."


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