Jeff Blatnick

1984 Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion

Blatnick was an athlete who's career was a matter of being your best when it matters most and also being in the right place at the right time. Blatnick had made the 1980 Olympic team that was unable to compete due to the Jimmy Carter-led boycott. In 1982, Blatnick was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. By 1984, Blatnick's cancer was in remission and the had qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the super heavyweight class. He surprised many by defeating the favorite, Yugoslavia's Refik Memsevic in the first round. He lost his second match to the Greek, Panagiotis Pikildis. Fate seemed to be smiling on Jeff Blatncik as Memsevic defeated Pikilidis. Since Pikilidis had beaten Blatnick by only one point and Blatnick had beaten Memsevic by disqualification, Blatnick won the tiebreaker over the other two to qualify for the final. He met Tomas Johansson on Sweden for the gold medal. Once again, fate was on Blatnick's side. As his match was beginning, the men's gymnastics all-around event had concluded. This left ABC-TV with an unplanned opening in their event coverage. There was an exciting gold medal match in wrestling, so ABC-TV joined Blatnick's match live with just over one minute left in a scoreless match. With 64 second left, Blatnick took down Johansson to take a 1-0 lead. The home country crowd was going wild behind Blatnick as he scored again with 38 seconds remaining. The crowd and the TV announcer, Russ Hellickson, counting down to Blatnick's victory. As the match ended, Blatnick fell to his knees, crossed himself, joined his hands in prayer and looked up. He was remembering the older brother who had died in a car accident seven years earlier. Blatnick began crying. He cried as his hand was raised, as he took his victory lap, and on his live national TV interview. The story of the man who had overcome so much and showed such honest emotion won over millions of viewers. Blatnick enjoyed instant fame and was selected the honor of carrying the American flag into the Olympic closing ceremony. In September of 1985, the cancer reappeared, but Blatnick once again fought back and the disease went into remission. Blatnick is currently a television commentator and motovational speaker.





1985 Preliminary 1




1985 Final








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