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Bruin Tracks: The Return of the Olympians


By Liam Humble

Published Apr 1, 2012 8:00 AM


Women's gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field '87 and ULCA Hall of Famer Rafer Johnson '59. Photo by Misha Gravenor.

When Clyde Swendsen headed to Antwerp for the 1920 Olympic Games, he didn't just represent the U.S. in water polo, he founded a UCLA sports tradition. Bruins have won gold in every Olympics since 1932 except for 1980, when the U.S. boycotted the games.

But you don't need to wait until the Olympic torch arrives in London this July to catch the Olympic spirit. Let some of UCLA's stellar world-class athletes inspire you at UCLA Alumni Day on May 5. "Bruin Olympians: Healthy Competition" is one of three power panels planned for the day; participants will include storied athletes Keith Erickson, Rafer Johnson '59 and Jackie Joyner-Kersee '86. The panel will be moderated by six-time NCAA champion UCLA women's gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field '87.

Collectively, these Bruin Olympians have racked up an impressive number of medals, championships and personal victories, but their experiences as athletes also helped them succeed long after graduation. Johnson, who won gold in 1960 in the decathlon and helped found the California Special Olympics, called on that spirit even when he was running for UCLA student body president. Erickson says the positive attitude he learned as a member of the first U.S. men's Olympic volleyball team served him well in his professional basketball career and as a sports commentator. It's a popular sentiment among Bruin athletes. "UCLA is the most illustrious athletic family in the history of all sport," says Kondos Fied, "and the fact that I get to be a part of that—it's truly overwhelming."

In fact, UCLA Alumni Day is a great occasion for all Bruins to return to campus for a day of personal, professional and intellectual growth with fellow alumni. This year, the event opens with a talk by world-renowned leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith Ph.D. '77. Alumni will learn about "The Good Life: Food and Wine and Popular Culture" with Susie Fogelson from the Food Network, TV personality Amy Goodman '95 and Evan Kleiman '76, M.B.A. '80 of KCRW-FM's Good Food; and "Life as a Movie: Living Life On and Off Set" with Covert Affairs star Chris Gorham '96 and his wife, Anel '98, along with Love & Basketball writer/director Gina Prince- Bythewood '91 and Brad Silberling '87, whose credits includes NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, Moonlight Mile and Land of the Lost.

As always, the day features a Kids' Zone and Titus the Clownicus, a Shakespeare production adapted just for children by critically acclaimed theater troupe L'Enfant Terrible.

UCLA Alumni Day also includes perennial favorites such as double-decker bus tours of campus, arts and residence hall tours, planetarium shows, and a concert finale no Bruin will want to miss.

ULCA Alumni Day. May 5. Women's gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondo Field '87 and UCLA Hall of Famer Rafer Johnson '59 are two of the Bruin all-stars on a jam packed lineup of speakers and activities at UCLA Alumni Day. $29 Alumni Association members; $39 adults; $15 Kids' Zone children, ages 3 to 13. Registration includes all events and activities, alumni dinner, evening concert and parking. To register, visit