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The New Haven Register sports department is celebrating our 200th birthday by sharing 200 of the most interesting stories relating to sports in Greater New Haven over the past 200 years. Check back daily for historical updates.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

North Haven's Ed Etzel struck gold first in 1984

Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis and Mary-Lou Retton were the American stars of the 1984 Summer Olympics. But the first U.S. medal winner of the Los Angeles Games was Ed Etzel, a psychology professor from North Haven.

Etzel scored a 599 out of 600 to set an Olympic record in the men’s 50 metre small-bore rifle shooting.

The spotlight inevitably found its way to Etzel, who took his brief fame in stride before waiting for it to find the nation’s next gold-medal winner. The United States would win 83 that summer, more than quadruple the next-best total, mainly due to a Soviet boycott of the Olympics.

“When (Good Morning America) interviewed him, they asked him, ‘So Ed, how does it feel to win the first gold medal for the United States?’” Etzel’s brother, Steve, told the Register in a 2004 story. “And he said, ‘Well, you know, it’s just something I woke up and did that morning.’ He will always give the impression that he is bored with the fact that he won (the gold medal). He’s ridiculously modest.”

Etzel, speaking on the 20-year anniversary of his achievement, said his focus in 1984 was on the task at hand, “staying in the moment.”

"My goal was really not to win an Olympic medal, but to shoot every shot one at a time,” Etzel told the Register. “One of the most important things I learned was to be in the moment and stay there.”

Read Chip Malafronte's complete story.

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