Once an Olympian, always an Olympian.
That's what Toledo native Louis Self understands even 40 years after he represented the United States as a 125-pound boxer in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
"It still amazes me that people still recognize me as an Olympian," said Self, 62. "It's undying. I think once you're an Olympian, you're always an Olympian."
Self's memory of his time representing his country on the world's largest amateur athletic stage remains fresh in his thoughts. He recalls the events as if they took place only a week ago.
Of course, the 1972 Games went down as one of the most memorable Games during the 20th century for various reasons.
U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz won an unprecedented seven gold medals. The Soviet Union men's basketball team defeated the United States for the gold medal in a finals game that ended in controversy during the final seconds.
Furthermore, the Games were marred by the tragedy known as the Munich massacre after Palestinian terrorists were responsible for holding hostage Israeli Olympic athletes and, ultimately, the deaths of 11 Israeli team members.
"Fear gripped the Americans and we just stayed in our rooms at the Olympic Village after that happened," Self recalled, of the terrorist attack. "After that night, the next day you could drop a pin at one end of the Olympic Village and you could hear it at the other end of the Olympic Village, figuratively speaking.
"Everyone thought, it could have easily been me."
Self experienced his own unforgettable setback during the Games when he suffered a 3-2 split decision loss to Hungary's Sotos Andreas in a quarterfinal bout. Many believed Self should have been declared the outright winner of the match and should have been awarded his third straight impressive victory and a place in the semifinals for the featherweight division.
Legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell interviewed Self after the defeat and told the 22-year-old fighter he thought the announced outcome of the fight was a travesty.
Four decades removed from the loss, Self still ponders the judges' decision to award the victory to the Hungarian fighter.
"I play it in my mind a lot," Self said. "I always ask the question, 'What if I had won, and how much [of] my life would have been different?' "
The Olympic defeat represents the toughest loss of his boxing career.
"It broke my heart," said Self, who was a two-time national Golden Gloves champion prior to making the Olympic team. "Anybody who put their heart into something like that the way I did would feel bad after you felt you had won. I felt bad, but life goes on."
Self, who is a minister at Majestic Praise Ministries and serves as an advocate for wayward youth in the juvenile court system, believes the controversial loss at the Olympics didn't ruin the memories of his experience boxing for the United States and competing before a world stage audience.
Opening ceremonies remain a fond memory that also comes to mind when he thinks of the Olympic experience.
"Here you are representing your country right along with all these different people from different nationalities and with different languages," Self said. "It was just marvelous."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.