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Olympic experience gives Davis a much bigger look at life in world

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By The Staff

Forever, Kenny Davis is part of Olympic history.

Davis, a collegiate basketball player at Georgetown College near Lexington, was one of the 12 members selected for the 1972 United States Olympic squad.

You remember, it was the team that lost the gold medal to the Russians in what has been the most controversial game in Olympic history.

While the Olympic loss to the Soviet Union was bad, Kenny Davis also had to live through a much more life-altering experience in Munich, Germany, in September 1972.

It was an experience that taught the boy from Kentucky a lot more about life than basketball.

Davis was at North Bullitt High School recently to talk with the basketball program at the school.

A shoe company executive, Davis said he was proud to be have been chosen out of 67 players to play on the 1972 Olympic team.

Although training was held in Hawaii, there was no time to enjoy the sights of the island. The players lived on Pearl Harbor in the military base with the soldiers. They practiced 26 straight days as coach Henry Iba got them prepared for the Olympic competition.

Many in the audience at North Bullitt weren't even born when that famous gold medal game took place in Munich.

Both teams were unbeaten heading into the final game. The Americans just didn't lose at Olympic basketball.

Trailing the entire game, Doug Collins hit two free throws with three seconds left. The USA led 50-49.

From that point on, the craziness started.

In international ball, a coach can't simply call a timeout. He must go to the scorer's table and alert them of his desire, according to Davis.

Inbounding the ball, the Russian coach went out on the floor to get his timeout, a violation that should have resulted in a technical foul.

The clock was stopped with one second left. A last-second pass was deflected and the Americans had won the gold medal.

"We, as Americans, had won the gold medal," said Davis. "It was a boyhood dream. We couldn't wait for the ceremonies to begin. It is an incredible feeling."

However, as the Americans celebrated, the president of international basketball came out of the stands and ordered the officials to put three seconds on the clock and the game resumed.

Davis said the person had no authority to do anything. The only regret of the players was not going straight to the locker room to celebrate.

Getting another shot at victory, the Russian stepped over the baseline, which should have been a violation, said Davis.

As the ball was thrown up the court, Davis said it was easy to see that the Russian pushed two Americans out of the way to receive the ball. He spun and hit the gold medal-winning shot.

"This time it was the Russians who were celebrating," said Davis. "We were in shock."

The players had gone from being on top of the world to be the bottom. Little did they know it would get worse.

The United States officials protested the game and the committee agreed that an error had been made. However, since 14 hours had passed, the panel did not reverse the outcome.

Unanimously, the Americans did not participate in the awards ceremony and none have ever accepted the silver medals.

"We didn't earn the silver medal," said Davis. "We earned the gold."

He told the players and their parents that he knew inside that the team won the gold medal. But he didn't need a symbol, like the medal, to prove victory.

While painful, Davis said that wasn't the worst part of his dream trip to the Olympics.

Walking to breakfast on Sept. 5, 1972, Davis noticed a lot of activity at the next building, which housed Olympians. It wasn't until after breakfast that he realized that Arab terrorists went in and killed two Israeli athletes and held nine others hostage.

"It was total disbelief," said Davis. "We thought we were in a safe place...even nations at war would stop during the Olympic Games."

At that point, Davis said he went from a 23-year-old kid to a 23-year-old adult.

"I understood how quickly life could be taken away," said Davis, who now lives in Paint Lick, Ky.

Everyone was glued to the television as all the competition stopped. By 8 p.m., a helicopter arrived and would take the terrorists to the airport, where they would release their hostages.

However, the German plan to take out the terrorists failed. One of the Arab terrorists turned and threw a live grenade into the helicopter, which had nine athletics, bound and tied, unable to move.

They would die as the helicopter exploded.

"We need to set priorities before it is too late," said Davis. Just 24 hours earlier, the only concern of the athletes was their upcoming competition. The next day, they would die.

Davis went to the memorial service. He was homesick, scared and confused. He wanted to go home.

Having lived through that Olympic experience, Davis said he learned that there is no time to have a negative attitude. He's a positive person.

"It's still going to be a good day," said Davis. "I'm a strong believer in having a positive attitude."

He said teenagers today need confidence. They see a lot of negatives in the world but they need to know there are positives in the world.

"I am one of the most fortunate persons in the world," said Davis, who has visited 26 countries and seen how others live.

Each day, Davis said he says thanks for being an American. And he's thankful that he was able to live through the experiences of the 1972 Summer Olympics.