After 64 years, a medalist returns to London

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LONDON -- When the U.S. men played Argentina on Friday, one 89-year-old basketball fan was cheering louder than anyone else.

He's Ray Lumpp, and this wasn't his first London Olympics. In 1948, he competed on the U.S. basketball team at another London Games.

Lumpp was in London at the invitation of U.S. basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski -- a little special something to motivate the team.

One might wonder what an elderly New Yorker might be able to tell a group of fantastically gifted athletes quite accustomed to pressure. But Lumpp, who lives on Long Island, has a different Olympic story to tell.

He can share his shock about what he saw in 1948: a bombed-out London still piled with rubble that didn't seem ready for more than 4,000 athletes gathering for those Games. The country couldn't afford to build an athletes village, so competitors stayed in schools, military barracks and private homes -- anywhere the government could find an extra room for them. Food was still rationed. U.S. athletes brought their own meat and sugar -- and were criticized for it.

"I have to admire the English people," he told the AP. "They put on a Games they could be proud of. ... Everything they had, they shared with us."

Lumpp had made his own sacrifices. Instead of turning professional after World War II, he decided to attend New York University and maintain his amateur status.

His goal was the Olympics -- and he followed all the rules.

"The greatest thrill in my life was when I was selected for the team," Lumpp said.

He was married, but couldn't afford to take his wife, Anne, with him to London. It took him two months to cross the Atlantic by boat, compete and get back. He returned $800 in debt. But he had his gold medal.

Lumpp went on to play professional basketball, including four years with the New York Knicks, before spending five decades as athletic director of the New York City Athletic Club. His name is now engraved on the gym floor.

Krzyzewski said including Lumpp was the right thing to do -- it's good to remember the past even as you play in the present.

"I do think it will help our players understand that at some time in their lives, they will be Ray Lumpp," he said in an email. "You would hope that someone would honor the memory of a great accomplishment that you had in the way that we hope to honor it with Ray."

Lumpp was just excited to be in London.

"The Americans have the greatest players in the world," he said.

"I hope that they bring home the gold medal and drop it off at the White House."

olympics


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