Presented by the Social Differences, Social Justice faculty cluster and sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, Renée Crown University Honors Program and Whitman School of Management, campus community members are invited to participate in the first annual Social…
45 Years Later, Olympic Memories Still Fresh for Herman Frazier
It’s safe to say that even 45 years later, the Olympic spirit is still very much alive in Herman Frazier. The University’s senior deputy athletic director, at that time a junior in college, took home the gold and bronze medals in the Montreal Olympic games back in 1976. Even so, the memories are still vivid, and he still gets a tiny bit emotional when he hears the Olympic Fanfare.
But this year’s games are very different. Under the threat of Covid-19, no fans are in attendance, and each day brings new stories regarding the impact of the pandemic on the Tokyo games. We recently spoke to Frazier about his Olympic dreams and memories, how he’s still involved to this day and just where are those medals he won back in 76?
01You are still active with the U.S. Olympic program. What was your most recent role?
Fortunately, I get called upon from time to time to assist. This year I was called on to work at the U.S. Track and Field trials as a member of the jury of appeals, which serves as the final ruling committee when a coach is dissatisfied with an on-field call. But once I arrived, they informed me of a need for a running referee, which essentially handles each and every dispute. I have 20-plus-years of experience serving that role, plus serving on the NCAA track and field rules committee and of course experience as a participant. I quickly changed hats, but there was a lot of pressure. These athletes are at their peak and are trying to make the Olympic team. The window can be very short and they may not have the opportunity again. So what you try to do is create a level playing field. The Olympics will be a part of me for life. Since my participation in the games, I’ve been involved in many ways, but I still get a certain feeling when I hear the Olympic theme song and see the athletes. Unfortunately, the Olympics this year is taking place within a pandemic and that brings certain challenges too.
02One of those challenges you mention is no fans in attendance. As an athlete, do fans in the stands make a difference?
It does affect you when you don’t have fans. I remember when we competed in Montreal there were 85-thousand people in the stands and of course you can hear them. In fact, I was able to pick out certain voices, including my dad. During one race I knew where he was sitting. It was at the 200 meter mark of a 400 meter race when I heard him distinctively shouting my name. I vividly remember seeing people in the stands and cheering and waving American flags. One gentleman was waving this huge flag and I remember him screaming, “Herman, Pottstown Pennsylvania is rooting for you!” I’ll never forget that. Not having that kind of atmosphere will mean the athletes will be missing out on that memory of the cheers, like the fond memories I had. But once the race begins, it’s all about the competition. It’s certainly what I remembered from ’76.
03Speaking of 1976, have you been back to Montreal since then?
Yes, in 2006, for my 30th anniversary. It’s interesting. When you are competing in the games you don’t have the chance to enjoy the city. You’re in the Olympic Village and then going to practice and competing, so there is very little time for sightseeing. When we went back in ’06, I had the chance to ride the subway train from the center of the city down to the track where we took pictures. There’s a plaque with the names of all the gold medal winners. The Olympic Village of course is no longer as it’s been converted into residential housing and office space. It brings tears to your eyes when you go back and see it.
04You won both the gold and bronze medals in '76. Where do you keep them?
I hardly talk about them. To be honest, the bronze means as much if not more to me than the gold. As a senior in high school, I just started running track, and four years later to be running in the Olympics and to win the bronze was quite an honor. I was ranked third in the world in the 400. When you win the gold, you’re the best in the world, and that was meaningful too. I bring the medals out when I speak to young kids at schools or the Boys & Girls Clubs. I haven’t looked at them for a while, but I might take them out during these games to take a look.