Fans Who Remember Bruce Jenner As An Olympic Champion React To '20/20' Interview
Friday night's episode of 20/20 featuring Bruce Jenner's highly anticipated interview with Diane Sawyer was — to say the least — groundbreaking. After revealing that he is "for all intents and purposes...a woman," the Olympian went on to detail how the turmoil he experienced over concealing his struggle with his gender identity, and how his desire to transition touched every aspect of his life. At the beginning of the interview, Jenner appeared understandably reticent to admit to the world what he had known his entire life, noting later on that, "I don't want to disappoint people."
Hopefully any of those fears of disappointment have now been quelled by the vast outpouring of support following the interview. Preceding the two-hour special, Jenner's family members and friends had stayed respectfully mum on the subject of his transition, rightfully allowing Jenner the opportunity for control in telling a story that is no one's but his. Following the interview, though, support began pouring in, with everyone from viewers to members of both the Jenner and Kardashian clan taking to social media to voice their support of and pride in Jenner.
However, while many younger viewers of Jenner's special may only know him thanks to the Kardashian family's numerous reality shows, many of those who tuned in to Jenner's interview Friday remember him for a much different reason: His days as a record-setting Olympian.
Jenner first skyrocketed to the height of fame in the '70s after breaking the world decathlon record during the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and, in the decades that followed, he was known around the world as an athletic icon — even appearing on the Wheaties box as a spokesman shortly after the games. While the outpouring of support for Bruce on social media is largely from those who know of Jenner as the reality star — which is, of course, because the majority of those on social media are from a younger generation — what do those who know Jenner first and foremost as an Olympian rather than a reality star think of his groundbreaking interview with Sawyer?
To find out, we surveyed a few of those who grew up during Jenner's rise to stardom in the '70s:
I'm supportive of Bruce Jenner handling his life today however he chooses. My memory of him as the Olympic decathlon champion was that he was the ultimate 'all-American boy.' In those days the decathlon champion was considered the 'worlds greatest athlete.'
I'm sad that he waited so long.
News of his transition was surprising to me initially because I remember him so well from the 1970s as an extremely handsome and muscular man. But I am strongly in favor of people being allowed to pursue what makes them happy as long as it doesn't hurt others. So I wish him peace and happiness and acceptance.
I just want him to be happy. He's had some journey. I felt sorry for him when I watched him.
[After a long, strained silence] Bruce Jenner — helluva athlete.
I just read an article written by one of his wives. The more I read about it, the more understanding I am. I have to admit when the story first came out I didn't pay much attention [to it]. I do remember when he won the decathlon. This all seems so far removed from that. I hope it empowers others in his same position.
I was very surprised by his announcement. I was so proud of him as an Olympian but I'm even prouder of him now. I'm just sorry it took him so long. It must have been so difficult for him, almost like living in a foreign body for 65 years.
I remember him on the Wheaties box, he was everywhere. I remember he was a really cute guy. You thought of him as an athlete. A cute guy, but not a manly cute guy, because he was so cute. Kind of like Paul McCartney. Same with Davey Jones. Not masculine. What was hard, because of the Kardashians, it was hard to take him seriously. [But] I think it's great what he's doing for the transgender community, because maybe it will stop people from getting hurt or getting attacked.
I really don't remember him all that much. The Decathlon, though it was a grueling sport, it really was a minor sport in the Olympics. The only reason he rose to prominence back then was because he was a good-looking guy, he was an American, so the media grabbed ahold of that. So I really wasn't paying attention with that. They're making his fame in 1976 a much bigger deal than it was because of this. He was hyped up, but, I don't know. It surprises me how much attention this gets. Like, who cares? Because I really don't care about Bruce's life. I don't care what he does.
Bruce was the quintessential iconic athlete to my generation. Guys wanted to be him, girls wanted to be WITH him. I had a huge crush on him and remember having that Wheaties box on the breakfast table.
It's heart-wrenching to learn that he has lived in such pain all these many years. Good for him for finally having the enormous courage to go public with his transition. Watching this interview will be life saving for many, as others sharing this challenge will gain great strength from Bruce's story. Bravo, Bruce, or whoever you finally become. May you find peace and joy as you find out 'how the story ends!'
Editor's Note: Per Jenner's stated preference, Bustle will continue to referring to Jenner using he/his pronouns for the time being. We will follow his lead and make any changes to this policy as needed in the future.