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I came across Renaldo Nehemiah‘s name the other day. He was a local hero and one of the most dominant track athletes of all time when he hurdled for the University of Maryland in the late-1970s.
I see Nehemiah’s name every now and then, since he’s still around here, working for the McLean-based sports marketing giant, Octagon. And whenever I see it, it’s not Nehemiah’s track dominance that comes to mind. It’s his hard luck.
Monday will mark 30 years since the opening ceremonies of the “Games of the XXII Olympiad” in Moscow. The U.S.A. didn’t send a team. Nehemiah held the world record in the 110-meter hurdles at the time and had no real competition, but the boycott took away Nehemiah’s chance to showcase his genius on the world’s biggest stage. He fell victim to politics: President Jimmy Carter wouldn’t let Nehemiah or any other American athletes travel to Russia in 1980 because the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan.
So, Nehemiah lost his chance for gold and glory all because another country invaded Afghanistan. On paper, these days, that seems sorta funny. The U.S. military has been in Afghanistan for nine of the 30 years since the boycott took place.
I emailed Nehemiah and asked for his thoughts on the Olympic boycott’s anniversary. He didn’t respond.