A Funeral, Then Back To Seoul

Posted: September 28, 1988

SEOUL — Rich Schutz's distant dream of winning an Olympic medal in weightlifting took a tragic turn on his second day in Seoul. He learned that his mother had died of leukemia.

He caught the first flight home and attended her funeral. For a lesser competitor, the Olympic quest might have ended.

Schutz refused to let that happen, and yesterday he was back in Seoul under the bright lights, competing and trying to keep the sadness and loss out of his mind.

"It's been a real roller coaster ride," said the quiet, 23-year-old health club instructor. "The Olympics are the best thing that's ever happened to me. My mother's death was the worst."

Battling time zones and jet lag, Schutz made the 25-hour trip to Seoul, halfway around the world from his home in Mount Prospect, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

He was too late for his event. That didn't stop Schutz either, as he moved up from the 100-kilogram weight class, where he is a three-time American champion, to 110 kilos.

"To lift in my class I would have had to lift yesterday," he said. ''There just wasn't enough time."

Schutz, who weighs 224 pounds, was the lightest lifter in the competition by eight pounds, a huge deficit in a sport like weightlifting. His effort wasn't enough to win a medal, but it was a dream fulfilled.

*

Carl Lewis received the stadium-like applause due a gold-medal winner yesterday when he addressed a congregation of Lay Witnesses for Christ, a Christian organization.

Lewis spoke for about 15 minutes at a service attended by about 6,000 people, including athletes from many nations.

Those in attendance said Lewis made only one reference to the drug disqualification of Ben Johnson, which resulted in Lewis' receiving the 100- meter gold medal earlier in the day.

After losing Saturday's race to Johnson, he had told reporters about a

dream his mother had before the race, in which his father appeared and said everything would be all right.

"And today, it was," Lewis said, after recounting the story to the congregation. Lewis' father, Willingboro Track Club director Bill Lewis, died last year.

While the athletes are out trying to win gold medals, Suk Young Ae and a small army of mothers and homemakers stay behind to clean up their rooms.

"Some bedrooms are very messy," said Suk, who volunteered last December along with 877 others to clean the 12,400 rooms where the athletes and officials stay.

"We want our country to accomplish the Olympics successfully with the small help of our mothers," she said.

Every day, the women begin work about 9 a.m., dressed in identical khaki culottes, white shirt, scarf and sneakers bearing the colors of the Olympic rings.

The hardest part of the work is walking into a bedroom with clothes strewn everywhere. The culture here is more organized, even with dirty apparel.

"There are differences of the traditional styles between foreigners and Koreans," said Choe Chong Su, the housing manager for the 83 buildings that make up the village. "For example, many people (living in the village) take off their clothes and throw them. In Korea, we will fold them and put them in a place by themselves."

With the fighting fast and furious on the Olympic fields, the rice paddies of Panmunjom seem eerily calm.

On this no-man's land between South and North Korea, just an hour's ride

from Seoul, the battle being waged is one of symbols.

The only clear signs of the momentous sports gathering 30 miles away is an Olympic flag taunting the North and the signature of Olympic swimming star Matt Biondi in the visitors' book at Camp Bonifas, the forward United Nations command at the Demilitarized Zone.

More than halfway through the Olympics, fears of an attack by North Korea against the Games have receded.

In fact, the communist North, which had sought to co-host the games with its arch rival, appears to be studiously ignoring the international sports meet.

"They haven't even attacked the Games in their propaganda," said U.S. Air Force Capt. David Griffard, who serves with the U.N. command.

Griffard is one of 375 people stationed at Camp Bonifas, adjacent to the site where regular meetings are held with the North to discuss violations of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the three-year Korean War.

The men of Camp Bonifas, about half of whom are South Koreans, also have noticed that the North is cranking up its loudspeaker music a little more for the constant stream of tourists visiting the DMZ.

The blasts of music - a mixture of oriental and Western tunes - sometimes are accompanied by praise for ruler Kim Il Sung and exhortations to South Koreans to defect.

Sheila Wager is exceptionelle.

That's the elite rating she and only seven other wrestling officials in the United States carry.

The rating, which she attained in 1983, also has allowed her to become the first woman to work as an official in an Olympic wrestling tournament.

"It's very exciting," she said. "I never dreamed I would be here. I always thought if I went to an Olympics, I would be watching my sons or my husband out there."

Jerry Wager, Sheila's husband, has been a wrestler, a coach and now is also an international official, though he was not among the three Americans chosen to work the Summer Games. Their two sons wrestled in high school and college but never made it to an Olympics.

Sheila, who is also a legal secretary, lives in Las Vegas.

She said being the first woman to officiate at an Olympics has not caused any problems in the international wrestling community.

"When I'm at the wrestling venue, I'm concentrating on wrestlers," she said. "I don't even think about being different from anyone else.

"I've never noticed any problems. Right from the beginning, other officials knew me because I'd been around. And I had conversations about the rules and they knew that I knew what I had to know. As long as I was competent on the mat, there were no problems."

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