Today, Bruce Jenner is best known for his role with the Kardashian family. Before he was keeping up with the Kardashian’s, though, Jenner was known for something else: Earning a gold medal in decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games.
Jenner first began competing in decathlon in 1970, he said. He’d been participating in other track and field events for about six years, and he was looking for a new challenge.
“…I decided I wanted to try my first decathlon, just to see what happens,” Jenner said during this documentary. “When I did it, I said ‘This is the greatest thrill I’ve ever had.'”
Just two years later, Jenner had become so good at the event that he was able to earn a spot on the 1972 Olympic team in Munich. There, Jenner finished tenth.
The tenth-place finish fueled Jenner’s competitive spirit, and after those 1972 Games, he was determined to return to the Olympic Games in 1976 —and come home with a gold medal.
“At that time I was very young — I was 22 years old,” Jenner said during the documentary. “I’d only been running the decathlon for a couple of years. I thought I had a lot of areas where I could improve myself. I felt like I wanted to come back for the 1976 Olympic Games. I thought, in Montreal, I was not going to be there just to try to go to the Games. I was going to try to win, and I had four years to try to pull this thing off.”
By the time the 1976 Olympic Games began, Jenner was no longer the same athlete who finished tenth in Munich. Jenner arrived in Montreal as the decathlon world record holder and the top-ranked decathlete in the world. He arrived ready to challenge the defending Olympic champion, and before the Games began, Jenner announced that, regardless of the outcome, the 1976 Olympic decathlon would be his last.
On the first day of competition, the decathletes competed in five events — the 100-meters, the long jump, the shop put, the high jump and the 400-meters. Despite achieving a personal record in each of those events, Jenner finished the first day of competition in third place.
The second day of competition, though, held Jenner’s four best events. He began the day with the 110-meter hurdles and hung on to third place.
Next, Jenner won the discus event, moving him into second place.
From there, he achieved another personal record in the pole vault event, which moved him into first place overall. Strong performances in the javelin and the 1500-meter allow Jenner to not only win gold, but with a score of 8618, Jenner also set a new world record in the decathlon.
After the Olympic Games, Jenner said he thought he would be disappointed to be finished competing. After the competition was over, though, Jenner realized that he had learned a few lessons along the way, he said.
“I thought I would be very sad to see it all go, because it was so much fun and it my whole life at that time,” Jenner said during the documentary. “I just didn’t want to compete just for the fun of it and just do mediocre. If I’m going to be in it, I want to go all the way with it.
“I think that’s what it’s all about. I learned that the only way you are going to get anywhere in life is to work hard at something. There’s no way you can get around it.”