Updated:
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Year
1976
Month Day
July 30

Caitlyn Jenner wins Olympic decathlon

On July 30, 1976, American Caitlyn Jenner—who was competing as Bruce Jenner—wins gold in the men's decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. Jenner's 8,617 points set a world record in the event.

The secret to Jenner’s success was preparation. In the 1970s, most decathletes trained with other decathletes. Jenner, however, trained with some of the world’s best athletes in each of the 10 decathlon events. 

Although the blond, chiseled, 6-foot-2-inch Nikolai Avilov, the world record-holder and 1972 Olympic champion from the Soviet Union, was considered nearly impossible to beat, Jenner’s intense training paid off at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. After the first day of competition, Jenner was in third place, 35 points off the pace and 17 points behind her rival. 

With all of Jenner’s best events slated for the second day, though, Jenner was confident of victory. Jenner later admitted thinking, “If I am within 150 points of the leader after five events, I’ll run away with it.” 

On July 30, the next five events went exactly as hoped: Jenner ran efficiently in the 110-meter hurdles, set a personal best in the pole vault, threw the discus and the javelin well and sprinted the last 300 meters of the 1,500-meter event to seal a win. Jenner then took an impromptu victory lap with an American flag. Avilov finished third, almost 300 points behind the new champion.

After the win, Jenner enjoyed the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” and appeared in movies, on television and, of course, adorned a Wheaties® box. Assigned male at birth, Jenner publicly came out as a trans woman in 2015.

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