Sports

SHOWING METTLE IN ATLANTA
Stanford Athletes Shine at Olympics

By Mark Zeigler


E
 ven for the Olympics, the potential for drama hardly could have been greater. A crowd of 32,500 in the Georgia Dome and an international television audience of millions watched intently as the individual apparatus finals of the gymnastics competition ­ and the last chance for an American men’s medal ­ unfolded before them.

But for Jair Lynch ­ Stanford grad, assistant project manager at Silicon Graphics and Bay Area community activist ­ it was not just a scene of high drama. It was a moment that defined the full range of his athleticism ­ his brains and brawn, his courage and spirit.

During warmups on the parallel bars, a discipline requiring a blend of power and dexterity that converges where the hands meet the bars, a callus on his left palm had cracked open. Lynch looked at the quarter-inch-wide hole in his left hand and realized it would only worsen rubbing on the wooden bars. He had 15, maybe 20 minutes, to do something about it.

Lynch grabbed a razor blade and began slicing away, meticulously cutting the edges of the callus so it wouldn’t rip further, then smothering it in benzoin compound. And then he waited to be nodded onto the podium.

Unfazed by the throbbing wound on his palm, Lynch nailed his parallel bars routine, scoring a 9.825 and winning the silver medal. He became the first African American gymnast ever to win an individual Olympic medal and the only American male to snag a gymnastics medal in Atlanta.

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1996

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