Rick Demont’s Lost Gold

Munich Games 50th: Rick Demont’s Lost Gold; How a teenager was brought down by those charged with protecting him

The 50th anniversary of the 1972 Olympic Games is a week away. will be celebrated of Mark Spitz The prestigious seven-gold show. Let’s remember the beginning of Shane Gould, the Australian teenager whose five singles medals remain the women’s standard. And we will honor the greatness of the backstroke Roland Mathswho doubled up in his events for the second consecutive Olympiad.

Golden anniversaries are considered joyous occasions. But that’s nothing to celebrate Rick Demont Endured in Munich. Demont’s story, half a century later, remains a sports crime, a young man denied his rightful place in history. A young man abandoned by the adults around him. A man, defined by extraordinary achievements in the coaching world, who has no right to what is rightfully his.

When Demont arrived in Munich, he was one of the younger members of the American delegation. Spitz, of course, was the highest-profile name on the roster. However, DeMont was a major contender for a pair of Olympic titles – in the 400 freestyle and 1500 freestyle. In the long event, Demont was the world record holder, having set that global standard at the United States Olympic Trials. Munich was, quite simply, the stage to prove his status as the world’s leading distance freestyler.

The 400 freestyle was DeMont’s first event of the Games, held on a few days of competition. By the time Demont took the blocks, he had handled the necessary pre-game protocols. Most important for the 16-year-old was completing paperwork with United States Olympic Committee officials about his asthma, and prescribing medications (Marax, Actifed, Sudafed). At no point did the authorities express any concern.

Photo courtesy: Swimming World

Once the 400 freestyle began, the race developed into a two-man battle between Demont and the Australian. Brad CooperConsidered a favorite for gold. Cooper held the lead for much of the race, including the final lap. But relying on his big finishing ability, Demont cut into Cooper’s lead and drew even as he approached the wall. At the conclusion, the gold medal winner could not be determined by the human eye, and the scoreboard knew the winner until the results were announced. At the touch, it was DeMont who won in 4:00.26, with Cooper a slight margin back in 4:00.27.

“I’ve been swimming backwards since I started,” Demont said of his late rally. “At the United States Olympic trials, I was thinking strictly about the 1500 meters. Now, I love the 400, especially after tonight.”

As Demont came on strong in the 1500 freestyle, a second gold awaited the American later. Any chance at a double, however, quickly evaporated. And so did Demont’s gold medal in the 400 freestyle. After his apparent victory in the eight-lap event, Demont was informed that his post-race doping test revealed trace amounts of the banned substance ephedrine.

The presence of ephedrine in his doping sample was hardly a shock, as his asthma medication contained the substance. The substance wasn’t supposed to be a problem either, because USOC officials—after Demont’s treatment before the Games—were charged with notifying the International Olympic Committee of Demont’s use for medical reasons. If the IOC had a problem with the substance, it would notify the USOC and find an alternative. The USOC, however, never engaged with the IOC on the matter.

“It was (the USOC’s) responsibility to let me know that there was an illegal substance in my prescription and either get it vacated or find an alternative,” Demont once said. “They failed to do it. I was only 16. I relied on those authorities to tell me what I could take, but somehow, I paid the price. I think it was easier to hang a 16-year-old out to dry than to tell the truth.”

Days after his apparent gold medal swim, Demont was stripped of his title, elevating Cooper to Olympic champion status. As critical as the situation was then, it was about to become critical. After Dimont’s urine test revealed ephedrine in his system, US team doctors confiscated the medication Damont was taking for asthma. Additionally, at the hearing with IOC officials, Demont was asked questions while Team USA doctors remained silent, offering no assistance or defense. Simply put, Demont was abandoned by the adults around him—those who dropped the ball in the first place and now refuse to acknowledge their role in the mess.

“It’s grossly unfair,” said the US men’s coach Peter Doland The IOC’s decision to strip Dimont of his gold medal. “Young De Mont was robbed, robbed because of the mistakes of adults. (USOC staff) knew about the boy’s medical records because he had them on paper. They didn’t tell me or his head coach about it. The communications were brutal. This is a punishment for a young man when he Got to be applauded.He overcame asthma and took nothing more than the doctor told him to win the gold medal.

As the IOC weighed his case, Demont qualified for the final of the 1500 freestyle. Even if his quest to overturn the 400 freestyle decision fails, at least Demont will have a chance to compete for another gold. Ultimately, that opportunity never materialized. As Demont prepares for the 1500 freestyle final and the possibility of redemption, assistant coach for the United States Don GambrillWith tears streaming down his cheeks, he approached Kishore and told him that the IOC had decided not to allow him to compete.

Reports from Munich indicate that several options were considered in the Demont case. One scenario was to allow Demont to race in the 1500 freestyle. Instead, the IOC went with the most drastic option, and banned Demont from the Games. Demont destroyed Munich. In the minds of many, he had done nothing wrong, but instead had been let down by the authorities who provided assistance.

A year later, at the inaugural World Championships in Belgrade, Damont rematched Cooper in the 400 freestyle and became the first to break the four-minute barrier. DeMont was timed in 3:58.18, with Cooper also cracking the four minute barrier in 3:58.70. Demont also went under the existing world record in the 1500 freestyle but had to settle for silver when Australia’s Stephen Holland blasted an even faster time.

Photo courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Following his competitive days, Demont emerged as one of the best coaches in the world. Worked together for years Frank Bush at the University of Arizona, where he eventually served as head coach from 2014-17. During his coaching tenure at his alma mater, Demont mentored the NCAA champions and became famous for establishing a pipeline between the program and South Africa. It is Demont who is primarily credited with molding the South African 400 freestyle relay that won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Roland Schoeman, Linden Ferns, Darian Townsend and Rich Nethling. Demont served as the South African coach in Athens and coached every member of that relay.

In 2001, the USOC honored him at a banquet and gave Demont a measure of validation when he presented a black leather jacket to all 1972 Olympians. The IOC, however, has not taken steps to restore Demont’s gold medal, despite much talk of the matter over the years.

“I don’t need a ceremony,” Demont said. “I don’t want any hoopla. I just want the IOC to set the historical record straight.

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