In The Pipeline: Olympian has love for environment, fitness

June 01, 2011|By Chris Epting
  • Olga Connolly today.
Olga Connolly today. (Chris Epting, HB…)

Her eyes twinkle in the morning sun, and her smile beams. Looking out across the water while standing on the boardwalk at the Bolsa Chica wetlands, she glances up as a large pelican swoops by, just several feet over our heads. She laughs like a girl decades younger than 78, but then age doesn't really mean too much to Olga Connolly.

Born Olga Fikotová, in 1956 she won a gold medal in the discus competition at the 1956 Olympic games held in Melbourne, Australia. Also at these games, Olga met and fell in love with well-known American athlete Harold Connolly.

The New York Times editorialized: "The H-bomb overhangs us like a cloud of doom. The subway during rush hours is almost impossible to endure. But Olga and Harold are in love, and the world does not say no to them."

Back home in her native Czechoslovakia, the couple's romance got the headlines — not the gold medal. Olga was accused of being a traitor by the Communist authorities, and her marriage to Harold represented the end of her career as a Czechoslovak athlete. But that didn't stop her. Olga became a U.S. citizen and went on to represent her new country at four Olympic games.


So respected was she by her teammates that Olga was chosen to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony of the 1972 Munich Olympics in Munich, Germany.

Throughout her career, Olga captured five U.S. national titles and raised the American record four times, adding more than 15 feet to the previous record.

Olga and Harold Connolly were divorced in the mid-1970s, but their children certainly carried on the athletic legacy of the family. One of their sons became a nationally known javelin thrower and decathlete, while one of their daughters played on the U.S. national volleyball team. (Harold Connolly passed away last year at the age of 79).

Olga has lived in Huntington Beach for two years. Several months ago, she joined the Miracles of the Marsh docent team from the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. She meets at the wetlands most weeks to teach visiting school kids about nature. As she wistfully described, nature, as much as athletics, has always played a big part in her life.

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