Aug. 13, 2012
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Editor's Note: With the curtain coming down on the 2012 Olympic Games Sunday, K-State Sports Extra concludes its profile on the four present-day Wildcats who had their moment in the spotlight. Featured earlier were Rowing Head Coach Patrick Sweeney, Associate Head Women's Basketball Coach Kamie Ethridge and Director of Track and Field Operations Karol Rovelto. Today, we finish with Assistant Track Coach Steve Fritz.
*** NOTE: Kansas State's Erik Kynard will be in New York City later this week taping a segment for `The Late Show with David Letterman' that will air on Thursday ***
By Mark Janssen
Steve Fritz says it seems like "a lifetime ago" that he was a member of the 1996 United States Olympic team that competed on USA soil in Atlanta, Ga.
"It was a very special moment, and one that I take great pride in," said Fritz, who is in his 20th season as an assistant Wildcat track coach. "`Once an Olympian, Always an Olympian' is the expression you hear Olympians use, and you are a piece of history that cannot be taken away."
At the same time, Fritz says, "Personally, I've wiped it off the board a little bit. I'm not a guy that reminisces about it much, but that's just me. I look at it as living two separate lives. I had the competition side but that was 16 years ago.
"Today, I don't check results, and I don't even watch the Olympics that much," said Fritz, who set the Big Eight decathlon record with a score of 7,924 and was a two-time All-American at K-State by placing fourth and sixth in the NCAA Championships. "I did the best I could at that time, and I'm content with what I accomplished."
After placing second in the USA Olympic Trials, Fritz placed fourth at the Olympic Games, just missing a medal by 20 points, which is equivalent to about three seconds in the 1500 meters.
Of coming that close to the Bronze medal, Fritz said, "It was just one of those deals. My score of 8,644 would have won the previous two Olympic competitions, and at that time, my fourth-place score was the highest fourth-place score in the history of the Olympics. I have no regrets."
While some might feel slighted to make the USA Olympic Team in a year where the games are held on USA soil, Fritz is not one of those.
"My mom had never flown, and has never flown, so it was a chance for more family members and friends to be a part of the experience," said the Gypsum, Kan., native and husband of K-State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz. "Plus, I had made World Teams and competed throughout Europe."
It's through the experiences of being a 10-time USA team member, including being the USA National champion in 1997 and fourth-place finisher at the World Championships in 1997, that Fritz felt he was prepared for the Olympic-type experience.
Of other memories of his Olympic experience, Fritz said, "At the time, you're so caught up with the process that you really guard against being carried away by the freight train of what's next to the point you don't appreciate the moment as much as you should.
"I tried to soak it in, but at the same time it was an all-consuming goal for the last two or three years," said Fritz. "But I knew about Olympic history, so I did know what it meant to be an Olympian."
Fritz, who was also a two-year letterman in basketball at K-State, said he did go to some of the other Olympic events, but added, "For the most part, you just tried to stay where you were located. They had live video feeds from every event, so a lot of times you just stayed in the village (on the Georgia Tech campus) and followed what was going on. It can be a fairly involved process getting in and out of the village with all of the security. You didn't just hop in a car and go."
A past assistant coach for Team USA at the 2007 Thorpe Cup in Bernhausen, Germany, and on the staff for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Fritz then repeated, "I'm proud of the accomplishment, but that was in another lifetime. It's just not something I think about too much anymore. That's just me."
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.