As far as the state of Utah is concerned, they were some Games, the Seoul Olympics.
Utahns distinguished themselves well, both in quantity and quality. If the state had entered as a country, it would have tied with Greece, Mexico, Austria and Suriname in the medals-won category - with one each. Utah's came when 14-year-old archer Denise Parker won a bronze in the women's team competition.Actually, Utah could legitimately claim another medal, this one a silver, since two players on the second-place U.S. water polo team - brothers Jeff and Peter Campbell, who now live in Irvine, Calif. - were born in Salt Lake City.
In all of the 23 Olympiads prior to Seoul, Utahns had won only 11 medals, and that's stretching it by counting all the technical possibilities.
1904 - Cyrus Edwin Dallin, an archer who won a team bronze medal. Dallin was born in Springville, but lived in Boston when he was 43 and won his Olympic medal.
1912 - Alma Richards, Parowan, gold medal, high jump.
1924 - Lee Barnes, gold medal, pole vault. But Barnes was from California when he vaulted. He was born in Salt Lake City.
1928-1932-1936 - Dorothy Hill, Salt Lake City, two gold medals and two silver medals in diving. At 13 in 1928 when she won a springboard silver, Dorothy was (and is) the youngest American to ever medal. She won a gold in 1932 on the plat form and a gold on the platform and a silver on springboard in 1936.
1932 - Eddie Tolan, two gold medals at 100 and 200 meters. "The Fastest Man on Earth," Eddie was born in Denver and went to college in Michigan, but he spent his early years and went to high school in Utah.
1964 - Blaine Lindgren, Magna, silver medal, 110-meter hurdles.
1972 - L. Jay Silvester, Tremonton, silver medal, discus.
Denise Parker's medal was the first for a Utahn in 16 years. But well beyond that, the Seoul Olympics were memorable for Utah because of the all-around high caliber of competition displayed.
There was Ed Eyestone, riding Rob De Castella's shoulder through the first 13 miles of the marathon until the cramps and the heat grabbed him; there was Park City's Madonna Harris, ahead of Jeannie Longo and Inga Benedict and most every other women's cyclist you've heard of until her rear tire went flat.
There was Melissa Marlowe, doing her beam routine while Elena Shushunova was one mat over, doing her floor routine; there was Doug Padilla, running in the 5,000 meters against the likes of Sydnee Maree and John Ngugi.
And there was Henry Marsh, typically coming from behind in the steeplechase, passing first one former world champion, then another, then another, to finish, at 34, a remarkable sixth; and there was Denise Parker, shooting her arrows next to Kim Soo-Nyung, her new cross-world arch-rival, en route to the bronze.
More than at any other Olympiad, ancient or modern, the Utahns in Seoul showed that you can get there from anywhere.
You can come out of a junior high footrace in Ogden and run 29th in the Olympic marathon even when you cramp up . . . you can come out of a community education tumbling class at Salt Lake's Bryant Junior High and finish 46th among the world's best gymnasts, factory-models from Russians, East Germans and Romanians not excluded . . . you can learn to race bicycles and train on the hills of Park City and then lead the best cyclists in the world on the flatland in Seoul . . . you can run in solitude at the BYU track long after you've graduated, driving every day from Bountiful if you have to, and then battle the toughest and best 5,000-meter and steeplechase runners the world has to offer, the African nations not excepted . . . and you can learn to shoot with your family at the Rocky Mountain Archery Lanes in Sandy, and four short years later have the best archers in the world in your sights.
You can get there from Ogden or Provo or Bountiful or Sandy or South Jordan or Park City or even, as Alma Richards once showed, from Parowan.
Almost daily, the Utahns at the Games of Seoul were battling the world on better-than-even terms. They're not calling Utah "East Germany West" now for no good reason. Utah's best were Seoul survivors - and then some.