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Friday, October 22, 2021

Former Olympian reflects on 1980 boycott

Credit: 41 Action News
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Former Olympian reflects on 1980 boycott
Former Olympian reflects on 1980 boycott

It’s been 41 years, but Cliff Wiley still gets choked up when he talks about the 1980 Olympics.

Wiley was among the world’s top sprinters of his generation.

He made the U.S. Olympic team in the 200 meters, but the dream withered amid political unrest after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

DAYS AWAY FROM THE 20-20 TOKYO OLYMPICS.IT ALL BEGINS FRIDAY,JULY 23RD - AND YOU CANWATCH ALL THE OLYMPICACTION RIGHT HERE ONYOUR 41 ACTION NEWSSTATION.RIGHT NOW - SO MANY U-SATHLETES ARE REACHINGTHEIR OLYMPIC DREAMS -COMPETING AT TRIALS ANDBEING NAMED TO THETEAM.BUT THERE IS A GROUP OFU-S ATHLETES WHO DIDTHE SAME THING - BUTNEVER GOT TO COMPETEAT THE OLYMPICS.41 ACTION NEWS DIGITALREPORTER TOD PALMERINTRODUCES US TO ONEOLYMPIAN - WHO MISSEDTHE GAMES - DUE TO THE19-80 U-S BOYCOTTGrowing up on McKeanAvenue in Baltimore, CliffWiley idolized the Orioles ofthe 1960s.Cliff WileyI thought I was going to be abaseball player.

The BaltimoreOrioles, c'mon now, we werealways winning in the '60s.One problem - Wiley couldn'thit.

After striking out in agamewith neighborhood kids atEasterwood Park during thesummer of 1967, Wiley tookoff running to right field, wentright out the gate and neverlooked back.WileyThat was the last I playedbaseball.WHEN A friend described hersummer travels with a localrecreational youth track team,IT piqued Wiley's interestWileyI'm down there with my holeyBill Russell tennis shoes on.Let me tell you something, it'stough when you're running ona cinder track and there'sholes in your tennis shoes.He won two trophies on relaysat his first meet and foundhimself venturing outsideBaltimore for the first timeWileyI got on an airplane; I've neverbeen on an airplane before.We go to St.

Louis and I stayin a hotel; I've never stayed ina hotel before.

We ate at arestaurant; I've never eaten ina restaurant.

When that 707TWA takes off, I'm hooked.

I'mlike, track forever.Wiley chose the University ofKansas - a national trackpower at the time - for college,where he was a 13-time All-American before going on toeven greater success on theinternational stage.But the Olympics were Wiley'sultimate dream.

He qualifiedsecond in the 200 metersduring the 1980 U.S. OlympicTrials, but never got to run inMoscow ...FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMYCARTER"And I have notified theOlympic Committee that withSoviet invading forces inAfghanistan, neither theAmerican people nor I willsupport sending an Olympicteam to Moscow."WileyWe actually believed thatsomething was going tohappen all the way up until theOpening Ceremonies of theGames.

We actually believedthat call was going to comeand they were going to say,'Get your stuff and be at theairport with your passport.

Weare going to the Games.'

Itwas just not something thatwe ever believed wouldactually occur.Wiley was an outspoken criticof the decision by Carter andthe USOC, but he held histongue when Carter presentedthe 1980 Olympians withCongressional Gold Medalsthat summer.WileyMy mother was there, and sheain't gonna put up with that.As unhappy as Wiley was overthe 1980 boycott, the grimreality that his Olympic dreamwas over didn't sink in untilthe1984 Olympic Trials, when hefailed to qualify in the 400after suffering a hamstringinjury.WileyI'll tell you when it reallyhurtsthe most.

When you meet withthe inevitable understandingthat you're never going tomake it there.

That's when youknow.

Choked up That'swhen you know.THAT WAS TOD PALMERREPORTINGWILEY ALSO WROTE TOTHE U-S OLYMPICCOMMITTEE LAST WEEK.HE'S ASKING IF THEATHLETES WHO COULDNOT COMPETE DUE TO THEBOYCOTT IN 19-80 -- COULDWALK IN THE OPENINGCEREMONIES IN THE 20-28GAME