Archive for Sunday, August 10, 2008

Former KU coach saddened by tragedy

August 10, 2008

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Tragedy once again has darkened the mood of one of sport's greatest events - the Olympic Games.

On Saturday, an assailant from the Games' host country of China stabbed to death the father-in-law of the head coach of the U.S. men's volleyball team, and wounded the mother-in-law and a tour guide in a brutal attack at the Drum Tower landmark in central Beijing.

"It's sickening (that this would happen)," said Pat Timmons. She and her husband, former KU track coach Bob Timmons, attended the 1972 Games in Munich, West Germany.

Those Games were tormented by the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer.

"It ruined the Games," said Bob Timmons, who coached seven Olympians in his 24 years as KU track coach (1965-88).

"The thing I remember is it was really scary. You didn't know what was going to happen or where it'd happen. You hoped that young American athletes would not be involved in any way."

Like his wife, Timmons was sickened by the acts of violence Saturday as well as ones in Munich and in 1996 in Atlanta when a bomb was set off in Centennial Olympic Park, killing two individuals and injuring 100 more.

"Sometimes I think those who want to upset international situations and relations think to themselves, 'This is the place to do it,''' Bob Timmons said of the Olympics. "Everybody in the world is watching."

They are supposed to be watching athletes compete at the highest level.

"The Games come every four years. Some of those competitors sacrificed eight to 10 years or maybe more, just to be as good as they can be and looking forward to great competition and good sportsmanship," Bob Timmons said. "They are not thinking about things beyond that."

Some of the competitors in the 2008 Games have said they may not do as much sightseeing as originally planned out of fear for their safety following the attack.

Timmons' wife, Pat, can fully understand why.

"We were in Germany with another couple (in '72). He'd walked away. I didn't know if I was going to find him," said Pat, shaken by all the problems at those Games. "I was fearful. Have you ever been in a place with so many people around? But I didn't feel the fear then that I do (for the people there) now."

Bob Timmons said he hopes great competition will ultimately define these 2008 Games.

"At the Olympics, the athletes all want to do their best and as good sports want their opponents to do their best," Timmons said.

"To work years and years to get there and have to compete under dangerous conditions when you don't know what might happen to yourself or your opponents ... there's enough pressure on Olympians without anything else going on. You are meeting the best in the world and you don't need any of this outside stuff. You don't need to be worried about the safety of yourself and others. It's a shame."

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