Bill Mallon: The Olympic legend who never played in one
The legends of the Olympics are not only made on the fields.
Did you recently hear about the identical blonde Estonian triplets Leila, Lily and Liina Luik, who would all be vying for the Women’s Marathon gold at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic games? Or the Mother-Son shooting duo from Georgia, Nino Salukvadze and Tsotne Machavariani who would be the first such pair to do so at an Olympics?
Such endearing trivia abound during the Olympic season. If you are looking forward to the Olympics eagerly, you would have actually come across these gems at some point.
Rookie as well as seasoned journalists actively covering the Games will never miss out on trivia such as these and will make sure they reach you as part of the build-up to the greatest Sports show on earth.
But have you ever wondered who corroborates the fact that the Luik girls of Estonia would be the first ever triplets among 200 sets of twins to have competed at an Olympics? Or the fact that despite 70 instances of parents and child competing together at the Games, Nino and Tsotne will be the first mother-son duo ever to do so?
Whom do the journalists turn to, to confirm such rare occurrences? How would they know if there has been any precedence to a current occurrence? If yes, how often? Chances are, for all such queries, the last knock would probably be on the door of Bill Mallon- the most celebrated Olympian historian alive.
Born as William James Mallon in Paterson, New Jersey, the 64-year old Bill grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts and became only the second person in his family to go to college. Today he wears many hats. An orthopedic surgeon by profession, those deft hands used to once wield the Golf club. In fact, his college admission was largely due to his love for the sport as he made it to the Duke University on a Golf scholarship.
Mallon turned pro golfer way back in 1975 and played three seasons on the tough PGA Tour. He was master of the New England Open, having won the amateur version once and the professional version twice. He even finished in the top 100 money list twice and played his only major at the 1977 US Open. However, fate would have him find his calling and fame as an authority on the history of the Olympic Games.
Bill Mallon co-founded what is today known as the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH). The story goes that back in December (5th to be precise) of 1991, a motley group met at a small pub in London called the ‘Duke of Clarence’, primarily at the behest of Bill and Ture Widland (a Swedish Olympic historian), to form the ISOH.
Erich Kamper, an Austrian and considered the doyen among Olympic historians, was elected as its honorary President. Bill served as its President from 2000-2004. He has written all of 24 books on the Olympic Games and is known to maintain an astonishing database of 12,000 Olympic athletes and their relatives. He has also been a consultant statistician to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Another hat which he wears and is comparatively less spoken about is that of being a champion of the Olympic movement. He has not only served on the organizing committees of the 1996 Atlanta and the 2000 Sydney Games, but has also played a key role in the first bid for the inclusion of the sport of Golf in the Summer Games back in the late nineties. Rio 2016 will see that dream of Bill’s being fulfilled. You can watch Bill talk about his role in bringing Golf to the Olympics here.
It is characters like Bill Mallon, that ensure that the aura around events like the Olympic Games is not only maintained, but also built over the years with their indefatigable spirit and Zen-like dedication towards the cause of the Olympic movement. They also ensure that outstanding achievements are etched forever in history and legends and role models are created for generations to emulate. In that aspect, heroes like Bill do the greatest social service by ensuring that young minds are positively influenced.
Today, you would find it difficult to read-up on an article on Olympic trivia without a quote of Bill Mallon’s in it. For his outstanding contribution towards the Olympic movement, Bill Mallon was awarded the Olympic Order in silver in 2001.
Bill Mallon is a true Olympic legend, without even having participated as an active athlete in any of them.