Fame, for­tune and a sex change!

SPORTS TALK WITH JOSEPH ROMANOS

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT -

What a life Bruce Jen­ner has led.

He’s 65 now and hot news be­cause he has de­clared him­self a trans­gen­der woman. He was also in­volved in a fa­tal car crash this year and faces court pro­ceed­ings over that.

There has hardly been a time over the past four decades when he has not been in the head­lines.

Jen­ner was one of the best ath­letes ever.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing 10th in the de­cathlon in the 1972 Olympics, he won the gold medal in that event at Mon­treal in 1976.

It was a mem­o­rable Olympics and stars like Na­dia Co­maneci, Al­berto Juan­torena, Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon and Michael Spinks and our own John Walker emerged with gold medals.

But Jen­ner might have been the most fa­mous of all, the all-Amer­i­can lad who broke his own world record in win­ning the tough­est event on the track and field sched­ule.

He al­ways had his eyes firmly on fame and for­tune.

Jen­ner trained re­lent­lessly, eight hours a day at the San Jose track at a time when ath­let­ics was largely am­a­teur. His first wife (of three), Chrystie, an air host­ess, paid the bills while he fo­cused on win­ning Olympic gold.

He in­tended to win, then cash in as the ‘‘world’s great­est ath­lete’’.

It be­came clear on the sec­ond day of the Mon­treal de­cathlon he was cer­tain to win gold and af­ter eight of the 10 events he burst into tears, so over­whelmed was he.

That evening he left his pole vault poles in the sta­dium. He had al­ready en­tered the postath­let­ics part of his life.

Jen­ner de­voted him­self to mak­ing money from tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments, movies and his avi­a­tion com­pany.

He nearly landed the role of Su­per­man that even­tu­ally went to Christo­pher Reeve, and re­placed Erik Estrada briefly on CHiPS. In truth he wasn’t much of an ac­tor.

Af­ter di­vorc­ing Chrystie in 1981, he mar­ried Linda Thomp­son, one of Elvis Pres­ley’s for­mer girl­friends.

When that didn’t work, he mar­ried Kris Kar­dashian, and they were to­gether 24 years.

Oc­ca­sion­ally Jen­ner turned up at ath­let­ics events.

I re­call him work­ing for NBC at the 1992 Olympics. He had a huge scar un­der his chin, the re­sult of plas­tic surgery de­signed to main­tain his youth­ful looks.

He tried bas­ket­ball and auto rac­ing and ap­peared on tele­vi­sion pro­grammes like The Weak­est Link and The Ap­pren­tice.

But what re­ally gave him the fame he’d craved was tele­vi­sion re­al­ity se­ries Keep­ing up with the Kar­dashi­ans, which was first broad­cast in 2007.

He wasn’t the show’s star, but he was fa­mous, so was an as­set.

Through ev­ery­thing, ap­par­ently, he has been bat­tling with him­self over his sex­u­al­ity. It tran­spires he con­fided about his prob­lems to close friends as far back as the 1970s.

There have been many well-known trans­gen­der peo­ple, in­clud­ing Re­nee Richards, the ten­nis player, Chelsea Man­ning, the US sol­dier and whistle­blower, and our own Car­men Rupe.

But it’s doubt­ful there has been any­one as prom­i­nent as Jen­ner. The de­cathlon has pro­duced big names like Jim Thorpe, Glenn Mor­ris (later a Hol­ly­wood star), Bob Mathias, Rafter John­son (later an ac­tor and politi­cian) and Da­ley Thomp­son.

Jen­ner has sur­passed them all. His life, with all its dra­mas, has been lived in the spot­light. This lat­est twist is the strangest of all.

Photo: REUTERS

Fa­mous ath­lete Bruce Jen­ner has de­clared him­self a trans­gen­der woman.

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