MUNICH OLYMPICS REFLECTIONS
I was only 18 years old when I became the surprise winner of the 1972 Olympic Trials, placing me on the first of my 3 Olympic teams. I was the youngest member of that squad and not expected to fare well at the Munich Games. I further baffled the experts when I won a Bronze medal, finishing the season as the #3 ranked high jumper in the world for that '72 season.
My memories of those first Games are vivid, due in large part to the tragic murder of Israeli Olympians by the extremist "Black September" terrorist group. The future of those and subsequent Games was definitely in jeopardy and I hadn't yet had a chance to prove that I deserved to be there, as my competition took place 5 days following the massacre. For me, there was an innocence about the Olympics prior to that horrible incident and, for everyone, they have forever changed. Having said that, aspiring to the Olympics remains the Holy Grail of sport and certainly more than worth the effort!
DISAPPOINTMENT IN MONTREAL
My second Olympic appearance was in 1976 at the Montreal Games. I had dominated the event in the ensuing years since Munich, setting 9 of my 10 world records in that time frame. I was probably considered the biggest "lock" there was to win a Gold medal. But they have the competition on the field, not on paper. There was a torrential rainstorm that swept through the city on the day of the final and I was fortunate to earn a second Bronze medal. Of course I was devastated by my finish, but I still had a summer season of competitions ahead of me where I could prove that I was still the best high jumper on the planet. Four days after the Olympics I set my 10th and final world record (7' 7 1/4") at a meet in Philadelphia which helped soothe the disappointment of my Montreal Olympic experience. I ended up ranked #1 in the world that year which was some consolation for a broken Olympic dream.
COMEBACK IN LOS ANGELES
In 1984, it was common knowledge, in the track & field community, that no high jumper improves past age 26. But the Olympics were going to be held just 11 miles from where I had grown up and, at age 30, I still felt like I could make that team. The 1984 Olympic Trials was the pinnacle of my high jump career as I not only won the competition, placing me on my unprecedented third Olympic team, but in the process, I improved my personal best after 8 years, to 7'8" which was also my 13th American record. I jumped 4"' higher in those L.A. Games (7'7") than I had in my two previous Olympic appearances but, alas, with one miss I was relegated to 4th place and off the podium for the first time. The great 1960's shot putter, Parry O'Brien called 4th place at the Olympics the Lead medal. That said, I was still proud of the fact that I had represented well and, for the third time in a row, become the highest placing American in the final.
Dwight Stones enjoyed an unprecedented 16 year career as a world class high jumper. He set the high school national record at 17 (7' 1 1/2"), won an Olympic medal at 18 (Munich - Bronze), and was the world record holder at 19 (7' 6 1/2"). Stones raised the world standard a total of 10 times (7 indoor - 3 outdoor) and won an astounding 19 national championship titles during his reign as America's top high jumper. He was twice voted World Indoor Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News (1975-1976) and was inducted into the Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1998.