There are few similarities between Rafer Johnson and Bruce Jenner. Both are former Olympic decathlon champions, but that's about it. They went off different directions after winning their golds.
Since winning in Montreal in 1976, Jenner has made a career of eating breakfast on television and covering sports for the American Broadcasting Company. After the National Broadcasting Company acquired the television rights to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Jenner jumped to that network. He is one of the most visible American athletes.
Johnson, the decathlon gold medal winner in 1960, works best out of the limelight in which Jenner flourishes.
"He (Jenner) came along at the right time," Johnson says. "When I won the decathlon, track and field wasn't all that big in this country.
"If I had done what Bruce did when he did it, I would have had the same opportunities, but very few athletes were pushing products or pushing anything back then. Back then, movies were the only real thing you could use to capitalize on who you were."
And so it was into the movies for Rafer Johnson.
He signed a three-year contract with Twentieth Century Fox. He made two Tarzan movies, among others, and apperaed in a segment of the Tarzan television series.
He tried sports broadcasting with KNBC in Los Angeles and then joined Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
After Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson went into a period of confusion and depression. He jumped at a chance to work in films abroad, one called "The Games," made in Italy, and starring Ryan O'Neal, and one filmed in Spain, "The Last Grenade."
That was his last fling as a full-time actor. Now he will appear only in selected movies or television plays and will do some work as a sports commentator.
He prefers to work in the background, helping to develop what he calls "that athletic fire in young people," He has been involved for a number of years with Special Olympics and the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
Johnson is a vice president of Continental Telephone Co. of Atlanta and has thrown himself into a unique track and field program for youngsters.
"All we want to do is get the youngsters (age 10 to 15) involved and then help them get in the next step if they find they are interested in track," Johnson said.
"They don't wear spikes and there are no fancy uniforms. All a kid has to do is to show up at his local park and say he wants to partcipate."
As an incentive, there will be national championships at Marshall University in August with all expenses for more than 600 contestants to be paid by the Hershey Foundation.
The events are the 50-yard dash, 100, 220, 440, mile, 400 relay, mile relay, standing jump and softball throw.
The D.C. finals will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Kennilworth-Parksdale Recreation Stadium. A minimum of four and a maximum of 30 youngsters will win trips to the national finals.