• one woman and two guys photos of then and now

      (L-R) Donna De Varona, Billy Mills, and András Törő (Photos – PSC)

      Olympic Day, which has united the world annually behind the Olympic ideal of honoring sports, nations and cultures, will be celebrated via Zoom for free in Pasadena Tuesday, June 22, at 11:00 am with a look back at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo from the perspective of three athletes who made history there: Donna De Varona, Billy Mills and András Törő.

      The free event is open to members and nonmembers of the Pasadena Senior Center. Residency in Pasadena is not required.

      Donna De Varona

      When she was only 13, swimmer Donna de Varona became the youngest competitor at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. She was well on her way to setting a career total of 18 world-best times and world records when, at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, she won a gold medal in the women’s 400-meter individual medley and a second gold medal as a member of the world-record-setting U.S. team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. After she retired from competitive swimming in 1965, she became the first female sportscaster on network television and the first woman to cover the Olympics for ABC television. She is an enthusiastic advocate for women in sports, helped Billy Jean King found the Women’s Sports Foundation and was a moving force in the Congressional passage of the landmark 1972 Title IX legislation and the 1978 Amateur Sports Act. She has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was presented with The Olympic Order, the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee, in 2000.

      Billy Mills

      Coming from relative obscurity, runner Billy Mills won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games in the longest track and field foot race — the 10,000-meter (6.2-mile) run — in what experts agree is one of the greatest upsets in any event in Olympic history. He remains to this day the only gold medal winner in the 10,000-meter run in history from the Americas. A member of the Lakota Oglala Sioux tribe whose native name is Tamakoce Te’Hila, Mills is from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and began competitive running at Haskell Indian Nations University. At the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship, he was a three-time NCAA All-America cross-country runner. He is co-founder and national spokesman of the foundation Running Strong for American Indian Youth that, through running and other sports, helps Native American youths reach their full potential while trying to reverse generational poverty and meet the needs of families in remote areas of reservations. Mills was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1976 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984. He received the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award from Barack Obama in 2015.

      András Törő

      András Törő is a Hungarian-born sprint canoer who competed in four Summer Olympics: 1960 in Rome and 1964 in Tokyo on the Hungarian teams and 1972 in Munich and 1976 in Montreal for the U.S. teams. He won a bronze medal in the 1,000-meter doubles canoe sprint race at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. In 1962 he won the World Athletic Championship in the individual 10,000-meter sprint canoe event. After finishing fourth in the 1,000-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, he walked into the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and defected. Political asylum was granted, and he was welcomed to the United States of America. This was at a time when Hungary was part of the Soviet Bloc and the Soviet Union consistently violated the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, restricted the types of activities athletes, artists, dancers, musicians and others could participate in, even recreationally, and punished dissidents with long-term incarcerations in psychiatric prisons. Törő resigned himself to most likely never seeing his family and home country ever again but had high hopes of starting fresh and free in a new land. He became an American citizen in 1971 and since then has served on the International Olympic Committee board of directors and the IOC executive committee. He is a retired naval architect and marine engineer who still designs and builds canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

      Panel discussion

      Raj Mathai, an NBC Bay Area newscaster, 12-time Emmy Award winner and Olympic expert, will moderate a panel discussion among these three Tokyo Olympians that will include a Q&A with Zoom viewers. The Zoom event will be presented by the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee and NBC-Bay Area in partnership with the Pasadena Senior Center.

      To register, visit pasadenaseniorcenter.org and click on Events, Clubs and Lectures, then Online Events. Everyone who registers will receive an email link in advance of the Zoom event.

      In addition to Zoom activities, members and nonmembers of the Pasadena Senior Center can visit the website regularly for COVID-19 updates for and other timely information, a weekly blog, monthly magazine, ongoing activities throughout the year and more. 

      Source: PSC


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