When Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal for the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics, she set a new world record and became an international superstar.
But it is far from being his greatest achievement in his eyes.
In fact, Caitlyn’s Olympic success was bittersweet – marred by the fact that no one really knew who she was, and her terror that world fame would trap her in the character she had created, forever.
As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics decathlon kicks off, with Canada’s Damian Warner currently in first place after the three rounds on day one, we got a look back at Caitlyn’s incredible career – which started at a youngster. age, but almost by accident.
She won a football scholarship to the University of Iowa in her youth, but after suffering a knee injury, she was forced to stop playing.
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Instead, her trainer encouraged her to compete in the decathlon, competing in ten track and field events in two consecutive days.
She continued to make a strong impression during the 1972 Olympic Trials in Oregon, where she competed in the men’s events as she did before her gender transition in 2015.
She was eleventh on day one of the men’s decathlon, but had climbed to fifth place by the time there was one event remaining on the final day.
She then finished in first place, 22 seconds ahead of the others and thus qualified for the Olympic team.
At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, Caitlyn finished tenth, setting a world record of 8,466 points. However, it was Nikolai Avilov of the Soviet Union who won the gold.
This perceived loss prompted a determined Caitlyn to embark on an even more grueling training regimen with the goal of winning gold next time around.
Allsport UK / Allsport)
“For the first time ever, I knew what I wanted out of life and that was it, and this guy has it,” she told ESPN.
“I literally started training that night at midnight, running through the streets of Munich, Germany, training for the Games.
“I trained that day until the 1976 Games, 6 to 8 hours a day, every day, 365 days a year.”
When she first married Chrystie Crownover in 1972, Caitlyn trained for the Olympics during the day and sold insurance at night, earning just $ 9,000 a year.
But his mind-blowing dedication would pay off.
In 1974, Caitlyn became the American champion in the men’s decathlon, before also winning the French championship in 1975 and a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games, setting the tournament record with 8,045 points.
This was followed by world records of 8,524 points in the USA / USSR / Poland triangular meet in Eugene, Oregon, in 1975.
And in the 1976 Olympic Trials, also at Eugene, Caitlyn broke another record with 8,538 points – although this was seen as due to a failure of the timing system and the help of the wind.
“A good little workout, eh?” Caitlyn asked brazenly, following the event.
She added: “We got what we wanted. We scared everyone in the world just a month away from the Games.”
Of the 13 decathlons Caitlyn competed in between 1973 and 1976, the only loss was at the 1975 AAU National Championships when a failure in the pole vault marred the score.
At the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Caitlyn set personal bests in all five events on day one of the men’s decathlon, despite placing second behind Germany’s Guido Kratschmer.
“Day two has all my good events,” Caitlyn said.
“If all goes well, we should be ahead once this is all over. “
But it hardly worked, and on day two Caitlyn saw her teammate, Fred Dixon, get injured in the 110-meter hurdles due to a rainstorm.
Popperfoto via Getty Images)
That meant she had to change her game plan, quickly, and opt for a more cautious approach over hurdles and discus – all while setting personal bests in the pole vault and javelin.
In the final event, the 1,500 meters, Caitlyn sprinted on the final lap and closed a 50-meter shortfall, setting a personal best and winning the gold medal with a world record of 8,618 points.
It was then that Caitlyn began a now longstanding tradition.
She took an American flag from a spectator and carried it around her victory lap – a gesture that has become iconic for winning athletes.
And that’s where Caitlyn’s Olympic career ended.
“In 1972 I made the decision to go four years and totally devote myself to what I was doing and then move on once that was over,” she told ESPN.
“I entered this competition knowing it would be the last time I did.
“It hurts everyday when you train hard,” she continued.
“Besides, when this decathlon is over, I have the rest of my life to recover. No matter how much it hurts?”
Caitlyn went on to win accolades including the James E Sullivan Award for Best Amateur Athlete in the United States and the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1976.
But as her athletic career was at its peak, it felt like a hollow victory for Caitlyn.
She was battling gender dysphoria that made her feel like she was not living authentically, and it made her Olympic stardom shine.
On Shopping With Keith Lemon, Caitlyn told Keith that she would give herself a little push by wearing women’s underwear under her clothes during speeches.
“The morning after games I go to the bathroom and there’s the gold medal sitting on the counter,” Caitlyn said.
“I look at myself in the mirror and I’m like, ‘What did you just do?’
“It really scared me. Did I build this character so big I’m stuck with him for the rest of my life?” she said, referring to her old identity.
“I used to do speeches about games, about this and that, I had Braun panties underneath, just to make me feel a little better about myself.
“And I would think, looking around, ‘There’s so much more to me than that, these 48 hours.’
“And I wondered if I would ever be able to tell the story.”
Caitlyn added that she felt isolated and alone.
“I never felt that I was part of the male community, I never felt that I was part of the female community,” she explained.
“I lived alone for six years and never really got out. I had all kinds of difficulties, all these years.”
Caitlyn would go on to say that her gender transition and the bravery it took was a much bigger, more rewarding and longer time ahead than her Olympic achievements.
When asked in 2019 what her biggest achievement has been, Caitlyn told Radio 4, “I should put my identity higher. It was harder to do.
“I trained 12 years for the Olympics. I trained 65 years old to make the transition in 2015.
“It was less accepted. Everyone loved the Games.
“A lot of people, when they see you making the transition, hate your guts. Look at the quotes on Instagram. It was a lot harder by far.
“Being gender dysphoric and dyslexic is what made me feel right down the line.
“When I got into sports it became more important for me to be successful in sports and to work hard in sports because of all these issues.”
In 2015, Caitlyn announced that she was in transition, following a high-profile divorce from Kris Jenner, the Kardashian matriarch, whose reality TV starred in Caitlyn.
She appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine for a revealing interview, and thus continued her journey as someone now widely regarded as the most famous transgender woman in the world.