The Olympics are underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Twenty-five athletes with ties to Wisconsin will be competing.
Despite its small size, Wisconsin nurtures a lot of Olympic-caliber athletes. Why is that? Sports reporter Jessie Garcia explores that in her latest book, “Going for Wisconsin Gold” from Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Jessie Garcia is Madison native who went on to become a pioneer in sports reporting. In 1994, She became Wisconsin’s first full-time female sportscaster on WISC-TV in Madison and then moved on to WTMJ in Milwaukee. She may be best known for covering the Packers for 20 years, and was co-host of the Green Bay Packers coach’s program, The Mike McCarthy Show. She chronicles her time on the sidelines with her 2013 book, “My Life with the Green and Gold: Tales from twenty years of sportcasting.”
Garcia is a wonderful storyteller and a dogged researcher. She talks to coaches, parents and athletes. She digs through newspaper clippings and archival footage. And now, thanks to YouTube clips, you can hear Jesse Owens scoring the Olympic Gold in 1936.
One of the reasons Wisconsin has nurtured so many Olympic athletes has to do with the ever-changing seasons. Another factor is topography.
In Going for the Wisconsin Gold, we read about Speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Casey Fitz Randolph. There are a variety of athletes–hockey players and hurdlers, shot putters and sailors.
The 1980 Winter Olympics really put the best of Wisconsin on display internationally. Eric Heiden received five gold medals for speed skating. Local hockey players Bobby Suter and Mark Johnson were on the Miracle on Ice team that beat Russia in the semi-finals.
In an interview last week, Jessie Garcia told me that the 1980 Olympics had a huge impact on her. She was ten years old and glued to sports coverage.
If you like Wisconsin and the Olympics, you will enjoy this book. Going for the Wisconsin Gold captures the quirkyness of this state, a land of frozen tundras and extreme heat.