EUGENE, Ore. – Bruce Jenner was back on the track and the cameras following him all around.
It was just like old times.
Only, the cameras were interested in Jenner the reality TV star, not Jenner the former decathlon star.
His two worlds collided Friday night at the U.S. Olympic trials when he arrived at Hayward Field for the first time in three decades. He was an instant hit with the crowd.
Then again, he always has been and now a new audience is paying attention as well.
Although Jenner set world records, won at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and graced the front of a Wheaties box, these days he’s best known for his role in the TV show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The reality series focuses on the personal lives of Jenner’s family, which includes the celebrity Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim and Khloe.
Jenner was at trials as part of a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the modern decathlon, when Jim Thorpe won the 10-event discipline in 1912. Also on hand were Rafer Johnson (1960 gold medalist) along with Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson of the famed “Dan and Dave” promotion by Reebok.
But Jenner stole the show.
The last time he was in Eugene was before the `76 Olympic trials, just trying to secure his spot on the U.S. team. He ended up setting a world record.
“My entire family, 65 people, had already bought tickets to Montreal,” Jenner said. “They planned their vacation to go to Montreal, got their RVs and were picking up little Jenners along the way. But nobody bought me a ticket. I had to come to Eugene and earn my ticket, just to ensure that I was able to visit my family in Montreal.”
These days, Jenner is relishing his new fame. Having a camera constantly trailing him has become almost natural.
So much so that when he got separated from his film crew, he actually talked to them on the phone just to let them know where he was.
“When I won in 1976, it was very inspirational to a lot of people, but it was also my generation, the baby boomer generation,” he said. “With our show, `Keeping up,’ it’s funny, because it’s a totally different audience who know me for a totally different reason. I’ve had a lot of fun doing the show.”
On the day Jenner & Co. were honored, they were treated to quite a show by rising star Ashton Eaton, who was ahead of a world-record pace for two events. His shot put throw slowed him down.
“I don’t follow the decathlon that closely,” Jenner acknowledged. “I’m kind of on the outside and look in to see what’s going on.”
He does keep in touch with 2008 Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay, who recently came over to the Jenner house for dinner.
No doubt, that will be on an upcoming episode.
Recently, Jenner, Muhammad Ali and Mary Lou Retton appeared on new Wheaties boxes featuring retro images of the Olympic champions.
“It’s amazing,” Jenner said of being on a cereal box again. “Nobody’s milked one performance better than I have. I haven’t won anything more than a couple of skins (in golf) the last 36 years.”