Tuesday, October 30, 2012

IN MEMORY OF: Jeff Blatnick (July 26, 1957 – October 24, 2012)

RIP Jeff Blatnick

Copied and pasted from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/sports/jeff-blatnick-gold-medal-winner-in-wrestling-dies-at-55.html

Jeff Blatnick, 55, Dies; Won Olympic Gold in Wrestling

Jeff Blatnick, who overcame cancer to win a gold medal for the United States in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, died on Wednesday in Schenectady, N.Y. He was 55.

The cause was complications of heart surgery, his wife, Lori, said. 

Competing in the super heavyweight class at the Summer Games in Los Angeles, Blatnick, 6 feet 2 inches and 248 pounds, defeated Thomas Johansson of Sweden to take Olympic gold. 

Blatnick and his teammate Steve Fraser, who competed in the 198-pound weight class at those Games, became the first Americans to win Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, which allows holds only above the waist. Blatnick’s win came barely two years after his victory over cancer. 

After retiring from wrestling in 1988, Blatnick worked as a motivational speaker and as a network television wrestling analyst. At his death, he was a varsity wrestling coach at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, north of Albany. 

Jeffrey Carl Blatnick was born on July 26, 1957, in Niskayuna, N.Y., near Schenectady. He began wrestling in high school, becoming the state heavyweight champion in 1975. At Springfield College in Massachusetts, from which he earned a degree in physical education in 1979, he was a two-time N.C.A.A. Division II national champion and a three-time Division II all-American. 

Blatnick was named to the Olympic Greco-Roman team in 1980; the United States boycotted the Moscow Games that year to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. 

In 1982 Blatnick developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the spleen and other organs. After surgery to remove his spleen, followed by radiation, he resumed training and made the 1984 Olympic team.
Blatnick, who lived in Ballston Lake, was inducted into the United States Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999. He was also a longtime commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mixed martial arts promotion company. 

Besides his wife, the former Lori Nowak, Blatnick is survived by his mother, Angela; a brother, Andrew; a son, Ian; and a daughter, Niki. 

Blatnick, who was chosen by his teammates to carry the American flag at the closing ceremony of the ’84 Games, was philosophical about his renown. 

“If I didn’t have cancer, nobody would know who I was,” he told The Lancaster New Era, a Pennsylvania newspaper, in 2007. “Not a lot of wrestlers make the news.” 

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