LDS Athletes Compete in Olympics
November 2000

“LDS Athletes Compete in Olympics,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 112

LDS Athletes Compete in Olympics

Four Church members won medals during the summer Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, and a total of 18 Latter-day Saints representing eight nations competed in the Olympic and Paralympic games.

Rulon Gardner, a deacons quorum adviser in the Colorado Springs Fifth Ward, Fountain Colorado Stake, won a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. He received worldwide media attention and became the six-foot-two, 286-pound “darling” of the games when he upset world champion and three-time gold medalist Alexander Karelin. Mr. Karelin had not lost a match in 13 years; his defeat was called the greatest upset in Olympic wrestling history. The U.S. Olympic athletes selected Brother Gardner, a native of Afton, Wyoming, to represent them in carrying the U.S. flag during the Olympic closing ceremonies. “I feel overwhelmed to have that honor of representing my country, and hope I’m also always representing the Church,” he said just before the ceremonies.

Brother Gardner, who had won the wrestling championship of the National Junior College Athletic Association while at Ricks College in 1991, spoke at firesides in Sydney and Canberra before he competed. He encouraged members to “work hard to accomplish goals, stay focused, and never give up.”

Laura Berg, a member of the Downey Third Ward, Downey California Stake, helped her women’s softball team win gold when she slugged a fly ball to left field to bring home the winning run during the gold medal game.

Eric Fonoimoana of the Redondo Beach Third Ward, Terrance California North Stake, and his teammate took the gold in men’s beach volleyball.

Courtney Johnson of the Sunnyvale Ward, Los Altos California Stake, was among the first women ever to participate in Olympic water polo. Her team won silver.

For Robbie Pratt, who grew up in Mexico but now lives in the El Paso Fifth Ward, El Paso Texas Mount Franklin Stake, a great Olympic moment occurred just after he competed in the pole vault event. He opened his mission call to the Mexico Torreón Mission.

The following are other Latter-day Saints known to have competed in Sydney: Kenneth Andam (Ghana), track: 100m, 4x100m relay; Marsha Mark-Baird (Trinidad and Tobago), heptathlon; Trent Blair (USA), Paralympic track: 200m; Jared Deacon (Great Britain), track and field: 4x400m relay; Jamie Dantzscher (USA), gymnastics; Ryan Millar (USA), volleyball; Leonard Myles-Mills (Ghana), track: 100m; Amy Christiansen Palmer (USA), hammer throw; Jason Pyrah (USA), track: 1500m; Sharon Rackham (Australia), Paralympic track and field: 100m, 200m, long jump; Arunas Savickas (Lithuania), swimming: 200m freestyle, 200m backstroke, 4x100 free relay; Maggie Chan Roper (Hong Kong), track: 5,000m; Charlene Johnson Tagaloa (USA), volleyball.


Rulon Gardner was selected by U.S. Olympians to carry the U.S. flag at closing ceremonies. (Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.)