Ed Odeven Reporting

Rafer Johnson made a big impression on me as a young sports fan in the mid-1980s.

Watching a video of highlights from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, the former decathlon gold medalist seemed to stand 10 feet tall when he carried the Olympic torch inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the Opening Ceremony.

It also seemed to me that he had the coolest job in the world that day.

Decades later, I learned a lot more about Johnson’s life, about his athletic excellence and intellect, philanthropic work and impact on society.

When Johnson passed away earlier this month at age 86, I thought back to the memorable video that I had seen as a boy and Johnson’s starring role in the global extravaganza. He climbed 99 steps before lighting the torch. All eyes were on him. Just as they were when he carried the American flag during…

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