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A Reunion Of Legends: Remembering 1984

By Amy Rosewater | July 31, 2014, 5:14 p.m. (ET)

Olympians gather at the LA 84 Foundation's 30th anniversary reception on July 28, 2014 in Los Angeles. 

LOS ANGELES – Rafer Johnson didn’t have to walk up 99 steps this time around, and the decathlon Olympic champion was grateful for that.

Gold medalist divers Pat McCormick and Sammy Lee pose for a photo at the LA 84 Foundation's 30th anniversary reception on July 28, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Thirty years after he lit the cauldron to kick off the 1984 Olympic Games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Johnson easily walked through the LA84 Foundation’s grounds and handed off a torch to Peter Ueberroth and then to Anita DeFrantz, president of the foundation.  The ceremony took place in front of about 250 guests, nearly 50 of them Olympians, and many of whom competed in those Games in 1984.

“You’re my man,” Johnson said to Ueberroth before adding this to the crowd: “This is fantastic. No stairs. All I had to do was bring the torch to the man who made these Games so successful.”

Ueberroth attended the reception with his wife, Ginny, and was frequently thanked by athletes for his leadership during those Games. Not only were the Games a huge success for the United States, as Team USA racked up 174 medals (83 gold), but they also were a winner financially, bringing in an estimated $250 million and creating a lasting legacy in the city of Los Angeles. The very grounds where the 30th anniversary reception was held is part of that legacy as it not only houses a sports library but also helps with youth sports programs.

Greg Louganis, who won two of his four Olympic diving gold medals in Los Angeles, made a point of walking over to Ueberroth.

“Thank you,” Louganis told him. “You made this happen.”

Ueberroth, now 76, lives in Laguna Beach, California, and is involved in several business projects, but has ruled out leading another bid to bring the Games back to Los Angeles. Los Angeles is one of four cities in the running to become a potential U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games. The other cities in the hunt are Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

As much as Ueberroth’s business savvy made Los Angeles a gold-medal host 30 years ago, he knows as well as anyone that the real winners were the athletes. Among the athletes who were in attendance Monday night: Louganis, gymnastics champion Mary Lou Retton, swimmer Rowdy Gaines and hurdles champion Edwin Moses. All became household names 30 years ago.

Here’s a look at what those four Olympic gold medalists who attended the reception Monday night are up to today:

Track and field gold medalist Edwin Moses speaks at the LA 84 Foundation's 30th anniversary reception on July 28, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Edwin Moses: The 400-meter Olympic hurdles champion from the 1976 Games in Montreal, Moses missed out on a chance to defend his title four years later in Moscow because of the boycott. He was dominant, though, in his run to Los Angeles in 1984, winning 104 consecutive races heading into those Games. Moses recited the Olympic Oath at the Opening Ceremony for the 1984 Games and then came through with a gold medal.

These days Moses remains involved in athletics as chair of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s board of directors and is chair of the education committee for the World Anti-Doping Agency . He makes his home in Atlanta and has become a big volleyball fan as his son, Julian, plans to play that sport for Lewis University in Chicago.

Greg Louganis: One of the greatest divers in the history of the sport having won four Olympic gold medals and one silver medal, Louganis became a household name after his dual wins in Los Angeles. “The Olympic Games in Los Angeles were a dream come true for me,” Louganis said. “In ’84 I felt I was at the very physical peak of my elite athletic career, and people don’t realize that elite athletes don’t have an extended shelf life. I was staking my claim to my space in history in 1984 and I was able to continue on in 1988. I had a lot of good fortune.”

In Seoul in 1988, Louganis infamously hit his head during the springboard preliminaries but still went on to win two gold medals in those Games.

As famous as he became, Louganis struggled with alcoholism and said he has been sober for nearly eight years. He married a paralegal named Johnny Chaillot in 2013. A documentary about his career, titled “Back on Board,” has been shown at several film festivals this year.

Mary Lou Retton: The woman whose vault was witnessed around the globe back in 1984 is now a mother of four daughters (Shayla, McKenna, Skyla and Emma) living in Houston. She is married to Shannon Kelley, a former University of Texas quarterback. Retton, who in Los Angeles became the first American woman to win the Olympic all-around title, left the City of Angels with quite a bag of souvenirs. In addition to the gold medal from the all-around, she earned two silvers (team event, vault) and two bronze medals (uneven bars and floor exercise). Retton attended the 30th anniversary event with her two youngest daughters, Skyla and Emma. Daughter McKenna is a high-level gymnast who was a co-champion earlier this year at the Nastia Liukin Cup at Greensboro, North Carolina. McKenna has committed to competing on the collegiate level at LSU. Retton is planning on attending the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships next month in Pittsburgh, where USA Gymnastics is planning to honor members of the 1984 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Teams.

Besides winning gold in Los Angeles, Retton said one of her favorite memories from the Games was getting on the bus for the Opening Ceremony with several U.S. basketball players — among them, Michael Jordan.

Rowdy Gaines, Greg Louganis and Mary Lou Retton pose for a photo at the LA 84 Foundation's 30th anniversary reception on July 28, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Rowdy Gaines: Although he missed out on competing in 1980 because of the boycott, Gaines made up for lost time by winning three gold medals in Los Angeles. “I enjoyed every moment of those Games,” he said. “There was nothing I was going to miss, and I just didn’t want those Games to end.” The swimmer has since gone on to provide TV commentary about his sport and continues to swim these days in Florida. Earlier this year, he took on the role as president of aquatics for the YMCA of Central Florida.

Gaines and his wife, Judy, who attended the reception in Los Angeles Monday night, have four daughters.

“If I would have gone to 1980 and done what I was supposed to, I might not have had an Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, and I tell you, I would have missed not competing in my own country,” Gaines said. “L.A. was a celebration for me because of 1980.”

Gaines gave one of his gold medals to his coach, one to his mom and one to his dad. “If I have to bring a medal to an event, I bring the one I gave my mom,” Gaines said. “She lets me borrow it if I sign off my first born.”

Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she covered her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.
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