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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Alain Mimoun weeps at the memory. "Oh, for me," he said, "that was better than the medal."

The gold medal won in the Melbourne marathon was what the mother of Alain Mimoun had been waiting for. "She said to me, 'That's it! That's what my dream meant!' And then she told me about embracing the moon and of the magnificent thing she had been waiting for me to do. I suffered much, but I knew the real Olympics to be religious games as the Greeks had planned them. You can't fabricate an Olympic champion. You are an Olympic champion in your mother's womb."


She is an invalid, nearly crippled from an auto accident and unable to work. She is 54 now, heavy and seemingly very tired. Rie Mastenbroek was the most famous woman swimmer in Europe in 1936, a pretty slip of a girl, just 17. She won three gold medals and a silver in the Berlin Games. "I am forgotten," she said. "No one remembers who I was."

She lives with her second husband and a 16-year-old son from her first marriage in an apartment in Rozenburg, a suburb of Rotterdam. Her first marriage was a "disaster" and she was forced to work 14-hour days as a cleaning woman after the war in order to care for her children. The only time she has actually been in a swimming pool in decades was when she waded into a therapy pool at a hospital in an attempt to ease the headache that constantly pounds at the base of her skull.

Yet Rie Mastenbroek remembers the days when she swam. "Sometimes I think, 'oh, dear, oh, dear, how good I must have been, how really good!' After me, not one lady swimmer, nobody, not one, ever did it again: three times gold and once silver. Oh, how good I must have been!"


Kamp Olympik is in the pine barrens of New Jersey. In the summer it overflows with 270 boys, but in the early spring it is a cold, desolate place. The owner of the camp is Don Bragg, 37, who won a gold medal in the pole vault in Rome in 1960. The medal is now displayed, along with dozens of other trophies and ribbons he won, in the dining hall of his camp. At twilight one evening last spring, Bragg peered at the medal, and when he spoke his voice bellowed and echoed among the rafters of the large empty room. "All I ever really wanted to be was Tarzan. It was my dream. Listen, I broke the world's record because I was Tarzan. I won the gold medal because I wanted to be Tarzan. I knew Hollywood would believe I was Tarzan if I had that medal."

Bragg was very excited. He is an enormous man, with thick, curly black hair, but his sideburns have turned white. While he talked, he strode about the gloomy dining hall and his feet thundered on the floor. "People started calling me Tarzan, which I loved. In the Garden, they'd be yelling up in the galleries, 'Go, Tarzan! Win one for Cheetah!' Once one of those pale little stuffed shirts from the AAU came up to me and said I was going to jeopardize my amateur standing because I had 'Don Tarzan Bragg' printed on my traveling bag. I laughed at him.

"So in Rome I won the medal after eight hours. Eight hours! I went from 198 to 178 pounds, but I won and I let go with this fantastic Tarzan yell. It echoed all over the stadium and the crowd went wild.

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