Marc Maturo’s official sports column
Olympic boxer recalls Munich Massacre 42 years later
Memories are made of this.
The heavy push by the group Washington 2024 to win a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in the nation’s capitol for the first time ever, brings to mind my one and only firsthand connection to the Games in general and an Olympic boxing team in particular.
It was way back in 1972 – just three years into my career — and I was offered a chance to write an article for the U.S. Information Agency. I would be advancing the 1972 Olympic boxing team highlighted by the brawny, amiable heavyweight Duane Bobick of Bowlus, Minn., who only a year earlier had defeated the great Cuban Teofilo Stevenson to win the world amateur championship (Teofilo turned the tables on Duane in Munich, West Germany, but that’s another story for another time).
The USIA assignment led me to Bear Mountain for a one-week stay in preparation for the Olympic trials at the West Point Field House, with TV personality Howard Cosell and the effervescent Muhammad Ali at ringside.
“Wow, I was just the kid then, but I’m not the kid anymore,” Tim Dement of Bossier City, La., then a 17-year-old underdog featherweight, told me some 42 years afterwards.
“That was a beautiful place,” Dement remembered. “We used to run the (Hessian) lake, and trained outdoors most of the time. It was a great setup, and it was nothing like I expected in New York.”
Also unexpected was Dement’s stunning victory over the heavily favored, hard-punching prison inmate Bobby Lee Hunter to win a spot on the Olympic team. Hunter, who was allowed to leave prison to box, was not favored by then-Olympic boss Avery Brundage, who said he would not allow Hunter to represent the United States. Dement, one of three sons of George Dement, the mayor of Bossier City, made life a lot easier for the IOC chief by out-slicking Hunter.
Also totally unexpected and never to be forgotten, was the Palestinian terrorist group Black September that turned the Games into the Munich Massacre, responsible for the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes and the fatal shooting of a West German policeman. Some wanted the Games called off; others said you can never give in to terrorists, a refrain that sadly has intensified ever since.
Shaken up by terrorism
“It was up close and personal,” said Dement, who won his opening bout and placed a respectable ninth. “When the PLO terrorists came in the Olympic Village I was out on the town with two journalists since I was already out of the competition. They dropped me off outside the Olympic Village maybe around 2 a.m. I entered the main entrance walking towards the USA apartments, and saw one simple strand of yellow police ‘do not cross’ tape. I saw nobody else. It was just me. I thought, ‘What’s the deal?’ as I walked around this area. I made it to my room and went to sleep. In the morning I was waiting outside the village for a German friend I had made, and all I saw was a parade of military vehicles of all sorts, full of German soldiers headed my way.”
It was only then that Dement learned of terrorists holding Israel’s wrestling team hostage, threatening to blow up the place if their demands were not met. Dement, however, was able to go on a shopping trip, returning to find the situation at the village a bit different than when he left.
“Rumors of misinformation and real information gave us an uneasy feeling to say the least,” continues Dement. “I recall my roommate Jesse Valdez (the 25-year-old veteran who won a bronze medal at welterweight) standing on our balcony with me to watch for an explosion as one of their deadlines passed. Being 17, I was curious to see how close I could get to the crime scene. I got to where I could see the terrorist outside with the hat and sunglasses … I also saw them boarding a bus in the underground parking area and leave the village. I ran as fast as I could and saw them drive away.”
Dement says there are two incidents he wishes he could forget.
“No. 1, there was this rumor that the terrorists had gained entry into the Olympic Village dressed as host. Each apartment had a floor with a host dressed in these silk-looking uniforms. One evening Jesse and I stepped off the elevator on the 12th floor of the three apartments that the USA Boxing team used. We saw all three apartment doors wide-open and nobody was there. As we walked into one apartment we saw several of uniforms the host wore laying on the bed. Then we found the balcony door open. We started to get real concerned that some terrorist dressed like a host had changed clothes with our teammates and thrown them off the balcony. About that time, the elevator made the noise they make when the door opens. I’m not sure where Jesse hid but I was hiding in the bath tub. We were scared shiftless until we heard the people talking that we thought had been thrown out the window. What the deal was, someone had made a trade with the uniforms. There was no harm done, just imagination running away.”
The other memory Dement would like to forget also turned out to be imaginations running wild.
“During the hostage crisis, several of us boxers were riding the elevator when it stopped halfway down. The door opened, and several people had assault rifles,” Dement recounts, vividly still. “Those guys with the assault rifles told us to get out of the elevator, which we did. Then I saw Mark Spitz (the great U.S. Jewish swimmer) was with them. They were escorting him out of the village, since he could have been a good target.”
Then Dement, still a kid at heart, closed with, “Later Gator. Have a good day.”
BECKHAM HITS TOWN: Football Giants standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has taken the NFL by storm in his rookie season, will be on hand at Dave and Buster’s Palisades Mall location in West Nyack on December 22. The charity event, which is expected to attract throngs of fans of all ages, will feature a meet-and-greet with the star attraction, food, drinks, live DJ, games, raffles and auctions. Beckham will stick around to watch Monday Night Football while helping to raise money for the Strike for Kids Foundation, an organization that combines bowling and entertainment in support of the cause. Tickets include an autograph from Beckham and start at $69. Tickets can be reserved at www.RiseTMG.com.
SPARTANS SPARKLE: Once again, track standout Winslow Dorsainvil of Monsey starred for Coach Lorne Marcus of Pomona at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill. The Spring Valley HS alum won the 55-meter dash in 6.39, breaking a meet record in the process at the Elm City Classic at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. Competing against some of the top teams and individuals in the region and the nation, Dorsainvil ran second in the 200 with a clocking of 22.87, followed by teammate Ricardo Reid of Mount Vernon in third with 23.43. For the women, freshman Kristen Borriello of Montgomery broke a school record in the mile with a time of 5:18.83 that was good for second overall. In the 800 Gabriela Sloezen of Westwood, N.J., ran an indoor-collegiate-best of 2:22.76, also taking second overall. North Rockland HS alumna Katie O’Grady of Tomkins Cove also hit a collegiate-personal-best in the 3,000, finishing second with a clocking of 11:02.51. The Spartans resume competition on January 10 at the 33rd Yale Collegiate Invitational in New Haven, Conn.
ON THE RUN: Nyack HS graduate Ifetayo Tyler, a freshman at La Salle University in Philadelphia, was named Atlantic 10 indoor track rookie of the week and ECAC women’s indoor track Division I South rookie of the week after her strong debut at the Jack Pryah Invitational in Haverford, Pa. Tyler lost in a photo finish in the 800-meter race, clocking an identical 2:21.57. “It is great to start off the indoor season with a great performance from Tayo,” wrote Coach Tom Peterson. “Tayo ran in a La Salle uniform for the first time and represented it well. I am excited to see how she progresses throughout the season.” The Explorers return to action following the New Year when they will be in New York for the UAlbany Great Dane Classic on January 16.
METS’ WILPON AT MARTA: Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, the son of team owner Fred Wilpon, was caught dining at Marta, a new two-tier restaurant located at the Martha Washington hotel at 29 E. 29th Street, in the neighborhood north of Madison Square Park.
QUICK HITTERS: Pearl River HS graduate Taylor Hodges of Nanuet is a backstroke competitor on the men’s swimming team at St. Bonaventure University. The Bonnies return after the holiday break, hosting Binghamton on Jan. 17 and Niagara on Jan. 24. … Star senior center Nick Smith of Middletown had game-highs of 30 points and nine rebounds and guard Joe Clinton of Pearl River had a game-high seven assists as the visiting Dominican College men’s basketball team reached the .500 mark at 4-4 following a 92-80 victory over Bloomfield (N.J.) College. In the women’s contest, Bloomfield prevailed, 68-66, despite 18 points each from Lisa Bouffard of Wallkill and guard Shannon McGill of Staten Island.