Washington Post Magazine: Olympians Remember Glory Days

Former Olympians in the D.C. area gather at photographer Keith Barraclough's studio in Fairfax, Va., for a group photo shoot for The Washington Post Magazine. Timelapse by Whitney Shefte/washingtonpost.com
Christina Breda Antoniades and Arlene Limas
Washington Post Magazine Contributor, Olympic Gold Medalist
Monday, July 28, 2008; 12:00 PM

It takes much more than luck to know the thrill of Olympic competition. The Magazine asked nine D.C.-area Olympians, including Dominique Dawes, Tom Dolan and Dorothy Hamill, to look back at a time when they pushed themselves to their limits and tell how those triumphs still reverberate.

Writer Christina Breda Antoniades and Olympic gold medalist Arlene Limas were online Monday, July 28 to discuss this week's Washington Post Magazine cover story, "Memory Games."

Christina Breda Antoniades is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. Arlene Limas was a gold medalist in taekwondo in 1988 (Seoul) and now owns a martial arts studio, Power Kix, in Stafford, Va.

A transcript follows.


Christina Breda Antoniades: Hi, I'm Christina Breda Antoniades. I interviewed our Olympians for this story and I'm looking forward to hearing your comments and answering as many questions as I can. Fire away!


Arlene Limas: I'm Arlene Limas, Olympic Gold medalist 1988, sport Taekwondo.

In this area for almost 20 years now! From Chicago.

Currently running martial arts center in Stafford Va.


good article: how did you track down all the Olympians? were any reluctant to talk?

Christina Breda Antoniades: Arlene was very helpful in putting me in touch with local Olympians but in some cases there was some tracking down to do. None were reluctant to talk but in some cases finding the time was a challenge. Tom Dolan is back and forth between here and Australia so that was a bit tricky. And one Olympian I really wanted to interview was in Africa doing volunteer work so he was unable to participate. From what I can tell Olympians tend to be high achievers all around so they're busy!


Arlington, Va.: Arlene, where do you keep your medal - is it on display or tucked away?

Arlene Limas: my parents had my medal for a while! It's now on display at the Smithsonian until Oct.


Washington, D.C.: Arlene, are there any kids at your studio you think could compete on an Olympic level? How do you spot talent in a young child? Is competing internationally a life you would recommend to a young person? I think of all the former child actors who say in interviews they would never want their own kids going into the business...

Arlene Limas: I see many elite level athletes at my center. we lose many to higher profile sports. I would recommend traveling and competing to all!!!


Silver Spring, Md.: Comment:

Dorothy Hamill has always been my heroine in the rarefied world of figure skating where unbelievable dedication and work approaches but rarely translates into perfection. The world is a much better place with her in it.

Christina Breda Antoniades: This was the first time I met her and I came away with the impression that she is an extremely nice, warm and caring person.


Alexandria, Va.: One of the best area Olympic stories was Rob Muzio, the GMU decathlete, and Robinson HS grad, who finished 5th in Barcelona. Decathletes are true champions, so I was sorry not to see him featured in your article. But I wondered -- just how many ex-Olympians are in the D.C. metro area? How interesting to see them now!

Arlene Limas: We have an Olympic alumni group. I would love to have Rob's contact info. send to powerkix@powerkixusa.com


Anywhere, USA: I was a little surprised by the swimmer, Wendy Weinberg, who seemed disappointed her kids were not competitive swimmers. Do you think that is really what she meant?

Christina Breda Antoniades: Well, keep in mind that what was published is a pared down version of a much longer interview. So it was just one topic that we covered.

That said, I don't think she was disappointed that her children weren't competitive swimmers. I think what she meant was that she had a hard time relating to someone who isn't as focused and driven as she was. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but more that it was hard for her to understand it because it's so different from her own experience. Actually, it's a sentiment a couple of Olympians expressed. They had this love of their sport or desire to win or whatever it was that drove them to put so much into getting to the Olympics and their children don't always have that (because, really, most children don't).

Arlene Limas: I Feel it is hard to watch our children and see talent and not want more... for them!!!


Reston Va.: Why didn't you include Mia Hamm - come on, that was an easy find and she is an amazing athlete!

Arlene Limas: We contacted many Olympians for this article. After contact athletes needed to respond, followed by a selection process by the Post.


Washington, D.C.: I was so disappointed that D.C. was not chosen to host the Summer Games. I think it would have been so cool for us. I noticed several of the people you interviewed were involved in the effort to promote D.C.'s bid. What kinds of work was involved in that? Why do you think we weren't chosen? Is there a chance we will get another shot at it?

Christina Breda Antoniades: I think Arlene can really provide some insight on this one but I thought I'd chime in with something Jair Lynch said, which is that Washington, D.C. really needs to have big-city dreams and before going through the Olympic bid it didn't. But the process made the city's leaders (business and otherwise) really think about what it means to be a city of international stature and how DC can make the most of what it has. And if nothing else came out of it, there were at the very least some strong regional bonds formed that will likely pay off well into the future.

Arlene Limas: We were all very disappointed about losing to NY. to bring the games to our Capital would have been awesome!

Olympians were involved in every area of the bid. Transportation planning, financial, venues...etc! NY won the bid...powers that be... The area turned down the chance to bid for 2016... Chicago is currently in the final 4 for that games!!


not a jock: I have never been an athlete, or a sports fan AT ALL. But I really like watching the Olympics. Why do you think this is?

Christina Breda Antoniades: I feel the same way. I think it's partly because it's on the world stage, which on the one hand makes it a little more exotic than, say, local sports and on the other hand gives you a feeling of inclusiveness. The whole world is watching and you're part of that, even as a spectator. And it may also be partly because it happens only every four years so there's a feeling that if you don't watch now you'll have to wait to see it again. And then, finally, I think because of the format of the Olympics, where some contests play out over several days or people participate in multiple events, you really get a sense of the individual. Knowing how hard they worked to get to this level it's hard not to be sort of fascinated by their story.

Arlene Limas: I think the Olympics represent the best in all of us. It inspires us to be the best!!


washingtonpost.com: This is a note from the chat producer - just want to let everyone know there are a lot of great online-only extras with this article, like audio clips of each athlete talking - if you read it only on paper do take the time to check out the online version! - Elizabeth

Christina Breda Antoniades: One thing that didn't a lot of coverage in the story but that everyone mentioned was the Olympic Village. The Olympians all said that living in the village was a big part of their Olympic memories. They're all in the same place, going through the same thing, trading pins or souvenirs with people they'd otherwise never meet. It's something I didn't really expect -- I thought they'd focus on that do-or-die moment but most of them sort of glossed over that until prodded.


For Arlene: Arlene, you mentioned your dad was not that supportive at first about doing martial arts instead of piano or tennis. But how did he feel when you won an Olympic medal???

Arlene Limas: He was very happy!!! He is supportive in his own way!


Virginia: I have always been curious about martial arts. What are the different kinds of martial arts? Do you have adult students?

Arlene Limas: There are too many forms of martial arts to list. the majors being taekwondo, karate, kung fu!

Yes I teach adults as well as children


Christina Breda Antoniades: To add to the question about why we didn't select Mia Hamm, we did stick with people who currently live in the greater DC area. So that eliminated quite a few excellent athletes (Hamm among them). We also tried to get a range of sports, ages and experiences (for example, we didn't want to only include athletes who'd won a gold medal.).


Olympic alumni?: is there really an Olympic alumni group? do you get together and have meetings? what kinds of things do you do?

Arlene Limas: Yes there is. at a local level and a national level! Our area was very strong at one time.. we are just recovering from the sting of losing the 2012 bid. In the last few months communication has gotten better. We have run clinics, helped charities... helped fellow members!


Arlene Limas: I would like to share info on the Chicago Bid for 2016.

we are currently in the final four against Rio, Madrid, Tokyo. Info at Chicago2016.org!!


Arlington, Va.: Christina, this is off topic but I noticed you also wrote the DATE LAB in this week's magazine. I love that column. Can you give us any behind the scenes scoop about how people get set up, what happens when you interview them, etc?

Christina Breda Antoniades: First, Date Lab is one of the best assignments I've ever gotten (the Olympics story was way up there, too, because it was so fascinating to hear their stories). I love talking to our daters. They're almost all fun and interesting and very few of them hang up on me. Second, I think the participants deserve a thank you because they really put themselves out there for our reading pleasure.

But now, on to your question. To be selected you have to fill out our handy-dandy-mostly-painless questionnaire, which tells us something about you. We look for people who seem open-minded, fun and up for something new and interesting. Once we pick someone we search our database for a potential match. We look for things in common but sometimes it's just a similar outlook on life that makes us think they'll be a good match. Sometimes we're right; sometimes not so much. It's harder than it looks. And since I always get asked this question I'll answer it now: no, we do not deliberately set up two people we think will be a terrible match just so we can sit by and watch the train wreck. Scout's honor, we don't.


Arlene Limas: Bringing the Games to an area is a difficult process. It will be a while before DC will enter another Bid process.

It demands a type of "Blind" support. Which is hard to come by. Our Bid was an awesome bid on every level. It is hard to put that forward and not win. Hard to recover from.


non medalists: Christina - the people you interviewed who did NOT win medals, did they seem regretful, resentful? Were there differences from the medal-winners you talked to?

Christina Breda Antoniades: You know, they didn't seem at all resentful. Michael Weiss was one who comes to mind. Although he talked about what went wrong, he didn't do it in a bitter way at all. He seemed genuinely thrilled to have had the opportunity. Ditto for the others who didn't win. They're Olympians, win or lose and while they would have loved to win the gold, I'm sure, they all seem to have a very grounded view of what it all meant.


Washington, D.C.: Arlene, you must have dreamed and had a lot of expectations about going to the Olympics. What surprised you the most about your experience?

Arlene Limas: I never really thought my sport would be involved in the games. It was an incredible shock that it was included in the Seoul games. Taekwondo is the Korean National sport! The whole Olympic experience has been a surprise!


Arlene Limas: This was fun!! Thank you for the questions and the chance to participate!!

Have a great day!

Arlene Limas


Christina Breda Antoniades: Thanks so much for your questions. Be sure to check out the audio, video and other additional coverage on the Washington Post Web site! --Christina


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