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The Olympian We Knew As Bruce: Caitlyn Jenner In The '70s

Culture | January 26, 2018

Bruce Jenner Holding His Gold Medal (Original Caption) USA's Bruce Jenner, San Jose, CA., displays the gold medal he won in the Olympic decathlon here 7/30. Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

The Olympic athlete today known as Caitlyn Jenner is extremely famous, mainly because she was on the most popular reality show of all time, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. She spent most of her time on the show as Bruce Jenner, husband of Kris Jenner, stepfather of Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian and biological father of Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

But to those of us who remember a time before Kardashians and before reality TV, Bruce Jenner was primarily known as a record-setting Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon and, unofficially, the world's greatest athlete.

Jenner’s father, William Jenner, was a rugged man who had competed in the 1945 U.S. Army Olympics in Nuremberg, Germany. His father was extremely proud and was not surprised that his son would eventually excel as an athlete as he and Jenner’s grandfather had.  Jenner knew early on what was expected of him. From an early age, he knew he was expected to become an athlete and reportedly also developed an athletic physique at an early age. Jenner reports that he had developed an athletic body as early as age 2.

Jenner Was An Athlete From Birth

Because Bruce Jenner had athletic tendencies similar to his father, much was expected of him. Jenner’s perceived daily reality, however, was that he was less than perfect. This belief was based on the fact that he had been diagnosed as having a learning disability and was quite possibly dyslexic. Jenner was always fearful that he would be singled out for his disability.

Jenner always felt as though he was inferior to his peers. That, in and of itself, compounded his fears. As a child, he was constantly afraid that one of his teachers would single him out to read aloud or perform in front of the class in some way.

Jenner Was An Athletic Prodigy By Junior High

When Jenner was in the fifth grade, he discovered his true ability as an athlete. His teacher had all of the students run and timed them to see who was fastest. As it turned out, Jenner was the fastest runner in the entire school. As a result, he received a lot of positive attention which fueled his interest in sports. In fact, sports soon became his niche in life.

Soon Jenner found himself involved in water skiing, basketball, football and track. He was soon regarded as a well-rounded athlete with natural abilities. Along with the accolades came negative comments. Coaches, especially, thought that he might just be too good to be true and that his many talents may be in conflict with each other.

When Jenner made the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team for the 1972 Olympics, he said that he experienced "the biggest athletic thrill of my life." He reportedly never expected to actually make the team but he did and the rest is history. As we know he went on to be a celebrated Olympian, bringing home a gold medal in the 1976 Olympic games. It was quite a win for the U.S., especially since the country was celebrating its bicentennial that year.

Jenner Was The Ultimate Physical Specimen

Jenner put everything he had into his athletic training and it definitely paid off. He was a perfect male specimen for the decathlon. Many women looked at him as the perfect male specimen. His notoriety led to his image being plastered all over America -- certainly, for  a track and field athlete, Jenner's ubiquity was rare. Jenner earned a place on the Wheaties cereal box, made the cover of numerous magazines (including Playgirl), and was a frequent guest on TV talk shows.

Everyone Knew The Name 'Bruce Jenner'

Source: SI.com

By all public accounts, Jenner was the total package. He was a celebrated athlete and a good looking, all-American guy. He turned his love of sports into a spectacular living, and enjoyed the life of a celebrity. Truth be told though, Jenner was reportedly never comfortable in the spotlight. After all of his achievements he still lacked self-confidence. Ironically, he agreed to live in a public fishbowl when he appeared on a reality show with the Kardashians; odd behavior for a person who is self-conscious.

Jenner's Secret

In recent years, Jenner began to address publicly a struggle he'd kept hidden -- that he felt trapped in his own body and never felt comfortable being a man. 

Bru-- Caitlyn Jenner Today

Caitlyn Jenner, Olympian & Advocate of Transgender Rights, at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile, via Wikimedia Commons

Once the most famous decathlete in modern times, Jenner is now arguably the most famous transgender woman. In 2015, the former Bruce Jenner adopted a new name, Caitlyn, and a gender identity she felt more comfortable with.

From Olympic champion to reality TV star to LGBTQ celebrity, it sure has been a memorable life for Caitlyn Jenner.

Tags: 1976 | Bruce Jenner | Caitlyn Jenner | Career-Defining Moments | The 1970s | The Olympics | Transgender People | TV In The 1970s

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.