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Diane Jones Konihowski: Olympic boycott a 'tragedy'

They stand among Canada's great sporting heroes, immortalized by world championships, shattered records and even stamps. Yet their overstuffed trophy cabinets contain no Olympic medal. We look back at some remarkable Olympians and the reasons they fell short of the most coveted honour in amateur sport.

Young skiers in Moscow have something in common with Canadian pentathlete Diane Jones. They share contempt for American attempts to organize a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. In this CBC Television clip, two Soviet boys predict international athletes will ignore the "stupid" boycott call. In New Zealand, Canadian pentathlete Diane Jones Konihowski says: "I feel strongly about politics -- I hate them," and they have no place in sport.

Jones Konihowski, training for the Moscow Games where she is expected to win silver or gold, is afraid that injecting politics into sports could kill the Olympic movement. That would be a tragedy for young Canadians who are driven by their dreams of representing Canada at the Games, she says. 
• Jones Konihowski was the Canadian athlete most critical of the Moscow Games boycott. It was proposed by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Some 65 nations joined the boycott, including Canada. Some boycott supporters sent Jones Konihowski hate mail, calling her a "Communist lover" and threatening her with death if she went to Moscow.

• "I gave in to all the hate mail and the death threats," and decided not to buck the boycott and compete in Moscow, Jones Konihowski told the Edmonton Sun in 2000. She said she regrets her decision, adding: "I'm a much braver person today." At an event in Germany two weeks after the Moscow Olympics, she beat the recent winners of the Olympic gold and silver medals.

• Diane Jones was born March 7, 1951, in Vancouver. She was raised in Saskatoon. An outstanding volleyball player, she played on the Saskatchewan team at the first-ever Canada Winter Games in 1967. She turned her attention, however, to the pentathlon.
• Pentathletes compete in five events — shot put, long jump, high jump, 100-metre hurdles and 800-metre run. Jones first competed internationally for Canada in 1967. She finished tenth at the 1972 Olympics.

• Jones Konihowski won a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games but finished a disappointing sixth at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. "I blew it in Montreal," she said in 2002. "I did too many presentations on behalf of Montreal, the Olympic city, and I just wasn't focused. I couldn't handle the pressure. However, I learned from the experience and I was fully focused in 1978 in the Edmonton Commonwealth Games."

• Not long after marrying Edmonton Eskimos star John Konihowski, Jones Konihowski shone at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. She won gold and set a Canadian record with 4,768 points. Jones Konihowski continued what seemed like an unstoppable march to the top of the 1980 Olympic podium with a gold-medal performance at the 1979 Pan American Games. She retired in 1983 at age 32, one year before the Los Angeles Olympics.

• Jones Konihowski took a break from her business career to go to the 2002 Olympics in Australia as Canada's chef de mission. "Predicting medals puts incredible pressure on these kids," she said at the Games. "One of our goals is to have a supportive, fun environment for them, because not every athlete is going to do well. Some of them are going to have disappointing experiences. It's got to be about more than just the performance."

• As of June 2004, Jones Konihowski planned to return to competition in the 2005 World Masters Games in Edmonton, an event limited to athletes aged 30 and over.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 22, 1980
Guest(s): Diane Jones Konihowski
Reporter: Tom Leach
Duration: 3:28

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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