submitted by George Poulos on 30.11.2004
The great pole vaulter was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1909, son of a humble carpenter who had immigrated to America from the Greek island of Kythera. Clentzos took up pole vaulting in high school in the 1920s, then perfected his art as a member of the University of Southern California track team in the early '30s.
In 1932 Clentzos tried out for the U.S. Olympic team, hoping to play for his native land at the Los Angeles Games.
"I didn't make the team," he says. "I fell short."
He did well enough, however, to attract the attention of the Greek attache, who recruited Clentzos and awarded him dual citizenship on the basis of his Greek heritage. He lived with the Greeks at L.A.'s Olympic Village and competed in a Greek uniform.
"I was very proud to play for Greece," he says. "Greece was my heritage."
Alas, he came in seventh.
"I had a bad day," he says. "Oh, God, I was crushed."
Three years later, in 1935, he did better, competing in a meet at Athens's Panathinaiko Stadium, where the 1896 Olympics had been held, and vaulting 13 feet 5 inches, a Greek record that stood for 15 years.
During the Athens Olympics, 2004, he was feted for two weeks for his Olympic accomplishments -- the mayor presented him with the prestigious Medal of the City of Athens. During the "Olympic fortnight" he was an honoured guest of the Greek government.
"Pete Clentzos is my father's brother. He was the oldest Olympic Torchbearer in Los Angeles last June, and was also a guest of the Greek Government at the Olympics in Athens. He is 95 years old and has more energy than anyone I know. Of course, that is because of those great Kytherian genes" -
For a more detailed and "hubba bubba" profile of the man - see, nephew, Terry Chlentzos-Keramaris's article on the man, under People, subsection, High Achievers
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