One of the most beloved athletes of the 1970s, track athlete Bruce Jenner was born on October 28, 1949, in Mount Kisco, New York. Jenner had dyslexia and struggled in school at a young age, but excelled at sports. An injury in college forced him to give up football and turn to track and field. His coach encouraged him to train for the Olympic decathlon, and, in 1972, Jenner placed third in the Olympic trials and tenth at the Munich Games. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Jenner won a gold medal and broke a world record, scoring 8,634 points in the decathlon. In recent years, Jenner has appeared with his family on the popular reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians and later revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview that he is transgender and identifies as female. In June 2015, Jenner announced on Twitter that she is a woman, now known as Caitlyn.
Early Life and Career
Born William Bruce Jenner on October 28, 1949, in Mount Kisco, New York, Bruce Jenner struggled with dyslexia but found success in sports throughout his youth. In high school, Jenner excelled in water skiing, football, basketball and track. He accepted a football scholarship from Graceland College in Iowa, but after a knee injury took him out of the game, he switched to track and field. His college track coach, L.D. Weldon, convinced Jenner to train for the Olympic decathlon. Little did the athlete know then that he would go on to become one of the most beloved athletes of the 1970s.
In 1972, Bruce Jenner made an impressive run at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany (also known as the Games of the XX Olympiad.) He placed third in the Olympic trials and tenth at the Olympic Games.
Four years later, however, Jenner would achieve Olympic stardom at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. At the Montreal Games, the athlete won a gold medal and set a new world record, scoring 8,634 points in the decathlon. After his win, a bystander handed him an American flag, which he enthusiastically grabbed for a victory lap—a gesture that has been repeated in Olympic games ever since.
Following his Olympic success in 1976, Jenner has remained in the public eye through endorsements, speaking engagements, TV appearances and other outlets. After famously appearing on the Wheaties cereal box, he pursued guest appearances on TV series such as CHiPs and The American Sportsman. He also became one of only seven spokesmen for Wheaties.
From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, Jenner worked on several television series and appeared in TV movies. In 1980, Jenner made his big-screen debut in the notorious flop Can't Stop the Music. He later starred alongside Kris Kristofferson and Martin Sheen in the dramatic film Original Intent, which went straight to DVD and was released in 1992.
Reality TV Star
In more recent years, Jenner has appeared as himself on numerous game shows and TV reality series, most notably with then wife Kris Jenner, children Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and stepchildren Robert Jr., Kim, Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian (Kris Jenner's children with her first husband, Robert Kardashian), on the E! reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which premiered in 2007.
Jenner also has two children, Casey and Burt, from his first marriage to Chrystie Crownover (married from 1972 to 1981), and two sons, Brandon and Brody, with his second wife Linda Thompson (married from 1981 to 1985).
In October 2013, Jenner confirmed that he and his wife Kris had separated. The pair appeared to have split up the previous year. In a statement to E! News, the couple said that "we will always have much love and respect for each other. Even though we are separated, we will always remain best friends and, as always, our family will remain our number one priority." In September 2014, it was announced that the couple had officially filed for divorce.
Since his retirement from sports, Jenner has also become a popular motivational speaker, television sports commentator and author. He is head of Bruce Jenner Aviation, a firm that sells aircraft to executives and corporations, and has written several books, including Decathlon Challenge: Bruce Jenner's Story and Finding the Champion Within. The famous athlete has stated, "I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability."
During the early afternoon of February 7, 2015, in Malibu, California, Jenner was the driver of one of the vehicles involved in a serious multi-car collision, in which a woman was killed. Jenner passed a field sobriety test, and an investigation was initiated as to the cause of the crash. In August of the same year, it was announced that the sheriff department would push for prosecutors to file vehicular manslaughter charges against Jenner.
Also in February of 2015, after much tabloid speculation, news outlets began to report on Jenner identifying as transgender, with some noting subtle, gradual changes in the Olympian's physical appearance.
In April 2015, Jenner appeared in an exclusive TV interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's 20/20. During the interview with Sawyer, Jenner stated that he identifies as a woman, using the gender-based pronouns "he" and "we" at times while going through his personal history, including his decision to have hormone treatments, his sexual orientation, and the emotional experience of talking to his children about the transition. His mother was interviewed by The Associated Press, stating that she's unequivocally proud of Jenner and that he did come out to her about his identity. Other family members made supportive public statements as well.
On June 1, 2015, Jenner announced on Twitter that she is a woman, now known as Caitlyn. “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me.”
On that same day, Vanity Fair released its July 2015 cover shot of Jenner as Caitlyn, which was photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Jenner told Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger: “This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person. It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ‘that a boy, Bruce,’ pat on the back, O.K. This is about your life.”
ESPY Awards Speech
After announcing she was transgender, Jenner made her first public appearance on July 15, 2015 at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, where she received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. The award, which is named after tennis legend Arthur Ashe and recognizes individuals who “transcend sports,” was previously awarded to prominent figures including Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King and Nelson Mandela, among others.
Wearing a white Versace gown, Jenner received a standing ovation when she walked to the stage to accept the award. In her acceptance speech, she spoke about the difficulty of her transition: “I trained hard, I competed hard, and for that people respected me. But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine, and that’s the case for so many others, besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital, they deserve your respect.”
She added her concern about young transgender people and cited the recent stabbing death of a 17-year-old transgender young woman in Mississippi and the suicide of a 15-year-old transgender young man in Michigan. “If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it,” Jenner said. “But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”
Jenner also spoke about using her celebrity to send a positive message of tolerance, and she encouraged other athletes to do the same.
“If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight,” Jenner said. “Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences."
Wiping away tears, she thanked her family for their support including her children and mother, who were in the audience. “The biggest fear in Caitlyn Jenner coming out was I never wanted to hurt anyone else. Most of all my family and my kids,” she said. “I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad because of what he has accomplished in his life. You guys have given so much back to me, you’ve given me so much support, I’m so so grateful to have all of you in my life. Thank you."
In late July 2015, I Am Cait, Jenner's docuseries about her life as a transgender woman, premiered on E! The first episode of the series features Jenner interacting with family members getting adjusted to her transition and stepping into her role as a transgender spokesperson. The show, which was viewed by more than two and a half million viewers on its premiere night, has been well-received by critics and noted for its lack of high-octane drama as compared to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Both series are helmed by Bunim/Murray Productions.
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