Today was my follow up appointment with Uljana Semjonova. As it turned out, forgetting to bring my Gold Medal to the first meeting was a brilliant strategy, because it necessitated a second meeting. Today’s meeting was much shorter but even more friendly, if that’s possible.
When we arrived Uljana almost immediately pulled out her 1980 Gold Metal, signaling me to present my 1984 Gold Medal. She was very excited to see it, and I was able to help place it around her neck. She also offered her 1980 Gold Medal for me to wear. Talk about a photo-op. This was the first time Uljana had seen a 1984 Gold Medal. It was really cool that the first one she saw was actually for women’s basketball.
I asked if she was able to watch any of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games and she said: “No, no, no.” while wagging her finger. Uljana said they were training hard for the 1984 Olympics and only learned three weeks prior to the games that they would not be going. They cried.
I can honestly say that I’ve not met anyone as excited to see my Gold Medal as Uljana Semjonova. We stood side by side for our entire visit. Every time I moved to create some space so we could talk, she pulled me back next to her. I think I have a new friend.
I was pleased to be able to present Uljana with a personal donation to her foundation and she was truly touched.
Uljana asked if we would be returning to Riga again next year. When we said we would like to return she made us promise that we would call her as soon as we got into town. She indicated that it’s difficult for her to go out into public places because people are always coming up to here. She talked about having us over to her apartment next time. I told her that I would love to meet with her again, and that I was interested in hearing more of her great stories.
Until next time…