The summer of '32 was theirs. They were young and bursting with the exhilaration of self-discovery, as was Los Angeles, where they fulfilled their Olympic dreams. The 13 men and women on the following pages were all gold medalists then, and now they're among the few living winners of '32. Although in their 60s, 70s and 80s, they clearly retain much of the vigor and joie de vivre of those triumphant Olympians of so very long ago.
HOP, STEP AND JUMP
I was invited to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford's home for dinner. When I met him, I didn't say hello or shake hands. My greeting was a sweeping fencing motion, as in Fairbanks' movie "The Three Musketeers." This made him very happy with laughter. I asked him to act some of the movie, so he came down his stairs doing his famous fencing.... I still strong, like Harley-Davidson. I can still control Harley-Davidson-and my wife.
Nambu, 80, lives with his wife, Hisako, in Suita, a city between Osaka and Kyoto. A former sportswriter and phys ed professor, he's now head of a women's junior college in nearby Tottori.
This coat is the one I wore during the opening and closing ceremonies in Los Angeles. I plan to wear it on my last journey, from my home to the cemetery. I'm hoping I don't get fat, so the coat can still fit me. This was the top of my life, the peak of my career. There's no finer garment I could wear on my last trip.
Guglielmetti, 72 and a retired Milan tramway cashier, goes every day to that city's century-old Pro-Patria club, where he oversees the training of more than 1,000 budding gymnasts.
In answer to the question, did the gold medal bring you a lot of attention: No, none whatsoever. Until now. It's too bad it comes 50 years too late. Too bad it didn't come at a time I could have made use of it. You have to remember that 1932 was only the second time women competed in the Olympics. I went to Los Angeles [from her hometown of Brookline, Pa.] with only $5 in my pocket.
Shiley, 72, who got married to physicist Herman Newhouse in 1945, when she was in the U.S. Navy, is a housewife, mother of three and grandmother of three.
FENCING, TEAM SABRE
As I remember, Los Angeles was so outstanding. If I try to compare it to the other places I've visited, the others mean nothing. Being in Los Angeles was like first love—At the Olympic Village we were introduced to a tribe of Indians. They put on a real Indian performance. They made fire. Their faces and features were very different. They were real Indians! They rode horses; they jumped off and back on. They threw a knife into wood. They put something on the ground, and while on the horses, they bent down and picked it up.
Gerevich, 73, shown here with 4-year-old grandson Gyorgy, won the individual sabre golds at the '48 Olympics and the '51 and '55 world championships. He's still a fencing coach at Budapest's Vasa Sports Club.
The relationship between our two nations was not so good. There was a lot of talk of boycotting Japanese goods.... After the Games started, the feelings of the local people changed for the good. In answer to the question, how did winning the gold change your life: Not very much, except people were always putting their eye on me, so I could not do anything wrong. Otherwise I might have become a playboy or hippie. I had to behave myself all the time.
Kiyokawa, 71, former president of and now senior consultant to one of his country's top trading companies and a past vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, swims weekends—usually, as at right, at Yoyogi pool in Tokyo.
Herr Strassberger, our heavyweight lifter, drank beer in preparation for competition. Our team surgeon told U.S. customs officials [Prohibition was in effect], "If he cannot have the beer, he cannot lift the kilos during competition." He told the officials, "It is medicine." He was allowed to import this medicine beer. After I won my medal, we drank the medicine beer...but we didn't drink too much medicine...We went to Marlene Dietrich's home in Beverly Hills. There were many German immigrants. She met me at the door. She asked, "What will become of Hitler?" About every second German asked you, "Will Hitler come to power?" I was surprised by the question. I didn't know what to answer.
Ismayr, 75, a retired administrator for the Bavaria state government, still lifts in competitions. He works out with weights he built while serving a 16-month prison sentence after the war for having been a Nazi Party member and a minor official of the Third Reich.
You could dance with a millionaire's daughter or a movie star. That was something. Those millionaires' daughters came to the Village in their cars and picked us up. I could have got married if I'd wanted. I don't remember their names, but I had a feeling they were willing. We were nice-looking young men.... I like dogs, and they had these dog races. After winning the gold, I went to the races. I made $60. The betting was thrilling for a young man of 23.
J√§rvinen, 75, a widower and retired Helsinki sports club manager, swims a couple of times a week but gets most of his exercise by walking in his neighborhood, along tree-lined streets and past colorful bus stops, with his Japanese Chin, named Jali.
YACHTING, FINN CLASS
After the Olympics were over, our team visited the Grand Canyon and rode mules to the bottom. There was a Captain Lesage, who had won the gold in dressage. He wanted to show the mule how to get down. But the mule didn't appreciate Captain Lesage's gold medal. The mule knew better how to get down. I didn't like looking into that big hole, so I turned around and rode my mule backward. It worked very well. My mule got to the bottom before Captain Lesage's. He thought a yachtsman was a very classy man, but when he saw my riding, he said, "Forget it."
Lebrun, 73, is retired from his family's picture-frame business. During the Second World War he helped hide many Louvre treasures from the Germans. He still sails every day while summering in Port Grimand.
I didn't have a job, and we didn't have any money. The country was deep in the Depression. Once we went without food for 15 days. The Olympics were just great because they had the Village. I didn't stay there [because he lived in nearby East Hollywood], but since I was on the team, I could go in. I'd sneak food out and take it home to feed my wife and daughter. After I stood in the middle of the Coliseum and received my medal, I went outside and thumbed a ride home.
Roth, 73, who studied geology at USC night school for eight years, became a senior geologist for Shell and later prospered in oil ventures of his own. He still works four hours every day, though he no longer fears having to stand in the "hunger line."
COUNT JOHAN GABRIE OXENSTIERNA
At the shooting event outside Los Angeles, we went for some practice shots in the woods. After we'd fired a few, an angry policeman came out of the trees and wanted to grab our guns and take us to the police station. But it was five minutes before the competition, so he followed us and said he'd take us to the station after the competition. He stayed and watched us. After he saw how well I shot, he felt we were honorable and no burglars. He let us go.
Oxenstierna, 84, scion of one of the most aristocratic of Swedish families and a retired naval commander, spends summers with wife, Andrea, at the Oxenstierna country seat in Norrtalje.
During the war, the government asked for donations of gold and silver from the people for military purposes. Everyone knew Kitamura had a gold medal. I was fighting in Burma, and my father took the medal to the local authorities as a donation. The official wanted to find an excuse to return the medal, so he filed the edge and found the medal [below] was only plated. So I still have it.
Kitamura, who was only 14 when he won in L.A. and is today 66, studied law at Tokyo University and was long an employee of Sumitomo heavy industries. He is now a consultant to Sumitomo Cement Company.
FENCING, INDIVIDUAL FOIL
When we arrived in the United States, we met the mayor of New York. I can't remember his name [it was Jimmy Walker], but I remember he made a lot of funny jokes. He took us to Sing Sing, which was both interesting and a great shock. We sat in the electric chair. It felt awful. Afterward we saw criminals on Death Row, and I felt very sorry for them. Then they took us to a laboratory, and we saw 42 jars containing the brains of criminals who had died in the chair. I was very young, and it made a strong impression.
Preis, 72, has taught generations of European dancers, actors and opera singers how to fence credibly—but still safely—while on stage.
Chaillot (right): I was expecting a lot more as far as luxuries went. I was only 18. I thought it would be a dream world—Hollywood and everything. Instead, I found plain, regular housing, not very attractive and kind of sad. I had the impression that people in France were better off....
The two of us were standing on top of the winners' platform. When they raised the flag and played the national anthem, I started crying. It was very emotional. I thought about my parents, my family. I knew they'd be happy.
Perrin: You have to cry!
Chaillot, 70, and Perrin, 72, both became professional racers. Chaillot, who rode the backseat in L.A., was the more notable cyclist, with a career that stretched to 30 years. He received La Croix de Guerre for bravery at Dunkirk, and after working for 20 years as a truck driver, he retired. Several times a year he visits Perrin at his family vineyard in Beaujolais. Perrin, who's also retired, spent four years as a German prisoner-of-war and later successfully took over his father's wholesale meat brokerage in Paris.