SI Vault
July 18, 1984
The summer of '32 was theirs. They were young and bursting with the exhilaration of self-discovery, as was Los Angeles, where they fulfilled their Olympic dreams. The 13 men and women on the following pages were all gold medalists then, and now they're among the few living winners of '32. Although in their 60s, 70s and 80s, they clearly retain much of the vigor and joie de vivre of those triumphant Olympians of so very long ago.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 18, 1984

The Rich Patina Of Old Gold

1 2 3 4 5

You could dance with a millionaire's daughter or a movie star. That was something. Those millionaires' daughters came to the Village in their cars and picked us up. I could have got married if I'd wanted. I don't remember their names, but I had a feeling they were willing. We were nice-looking young men.... I like dogs, and they had these dog races. After winning the gold, I went to the races. I made $60. The betting was thrilling for a young man of 23.

J�rvinen, 75, a widower and retired Helsinki sports club manager, swims a couple of times a week but gets most of his exercise by walking in his neighborhood, along tree-lined streets and past colorful bus stops, with his Japanese Chin, named Jali.


After the Olympics were over, our team visited the Grand Canyon and rode mules to the bottom. There was a Captain Lesage, who had won the gold in dressage. He wanted to show the mule how to get down. But the mule didn't appreciate Captain Lesage's gold medal. The mule knew better how to get down. I didn't like looking into that big hole, so I turned around and rode my mule backward. It worked very well. My mule got to the bottom before Captain Lesage's. He thought a yachtsman was a very classy man, but when he saw my riding, he said, "Forget it."

Lebrun, 73, is retired from his family's picture-frame business. During the Second World War he helped hide many Louvre treasures from the Germans. He still sails every day while summering in Port Grimand.


I didn't have a job, and we didn't have any money. The country was deep in the Depression. Once we went without food for 15 days. The Olympics were just great because they had the Village. I didn't stay there [because he lived in nearby East Hollywood], but since I was on the team, I could go in. I'd sneak food out and take it home to feed my wife and daughter. After I stood in the middle of the Coliseum and received my medal, I went outside and thumbed a ride home.

Roth, 73, who studied geology at USC night school for eight years, became a senior geologist for Shell and later prospered in oil ventures of his own. He still works four hours every day, though he no longer fears having to stand in the "hunger line."


At the shooting event outside Los Angeles, we went for some practice shots in the woods. After we'd fired a few, an angry policeman came out of the trees and wanted to grab our guns and take us to the police station. But it was five minutes before the competition, so he followed us and said he'd take us to the station after the competition. He stayed and watched us. After he saw how well I shot, he felt we were honorable and no burglars. He let us go.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5