The 2012 Summer Olympics are finally over! Woo-woo! I definitely won the gold medal for Olympics watching! I saw just about every second of the games, including the several team events that I sped through because I wasn’t particularly interested in them. But at least I got a taste of those and stopped here and there to check them out, too.

I showed excellent skills with my apparatuses, (such as the TV remote, DVD controls, camera, and iPad,) although I did have several problems with my new Dish Network Hoppers. (More about that in an upcoming column if they don’t make it right for me.)

I have to catch my breath before I share my final impressions of the whole spectacle, (which will be a bit of a lengthy column,) so look for that column tomorrow.

In my crazy love of all things Olympics, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many Olympians over the years. I’ve been impressed with many, some not so much.

Even though the list of the ones I’ve encountered is way long, please keep in mind that this one is about the nicest athletes.

The majority of Olympics participants I’ve met are basketball players and figure skaters, a few of whom have made this list, but there are many other sports being represented here. The athletes are not in any particular order, except for the first two, and about half have no commentary from me. But the circumstances that warrant explanation are noted.

Muhammad Ali!!!–This was one of the shining moments of my career. It’s the second greatest thing my show did for me, right up there with my Tonight Show appearances. I had beaten out a ton of other girls to be the celebrity interviewer for the Los Angeles Marathon telecast. (Most of them were either really famous, or were former Miss Something’s, btw.) That meant I was in the VIP tent during the race, interviewing whatever celebs my producer chose. I pointed out the Champ, and even though he couldn’t talk much anymore, he said I could do a bit with him!!! While I was quelling over him, he asked my name, and signed a book for me. On air! Meeting him made all the previous hard work on my career worth it.

Usain Bolt and Karen Salkin. Photo by Scot Hampton.

Usain Bolt–Ali was definitely the biggest highlight for me, but interviewing the World’s Fastest Man was next. It was a sweltering day, everyone was uncomfortable, and yet he stood there doing interview after interview, answering the same dumb questions for every journalist. During the ten or fifteen that he and I spoke privately, I found him to be adorable, charming, and not full of himself at all. And the best part is that he laughed at everything I said! What a guy! So, of course I was extra thrilled with his tremendous success at these London games.

Steve Lundquist–I met gold medalist swimmer Steve at a party many years ago, introduced by Olympic gymnast Kathy Johnson. I was shocked when he told me that he had not been in a pool since his victory years before! Now, as I watch the current crop of fish, I wonder if all of the guys feel like that.

Karen Salkin and Nastia Liukin. Photo by Lauren Bennett.

Nastia Liukin–we did a celeb event together in New York a couple of years ago, for Isaac Mizrahi, (who was also nice, btw,) and she was as sweet as could be. She was so quiet that I didn’t even realize it was the Olympic champion at first! After we got our hair and make-up done during the day, we started chatting, and then it dawned on me, and we giggled as we left. When we saw each other at the soiree that night, it was like we were old friends.

Bob Seagren—this one was exciting for me; I met pole vaulting champion Bob when he and I received Marvy Awards in Los Angeles, about a year into the run of Karen’s Restaurant Revue. While it was great fun to receive an award for my show, (it was awarded to people who were “marvelous” in his or her field, hence the moniker “Marvy,”) it was made even more special by meeting an Olympic gold medalist! The fact the he was a handsome man didn’t hurt, either.

Rafer Johnson—when I was a celebrity at Special Olympics for many years, (perhaps the best thing I ever did in my career,) I was always so uplifted to see the Olympic decathlon champion, (who was the head of the organization in L.A.,) greet everyone, and be a constant presence on campus each and every year. Props to him for extra kindness!

Bart Connor

Willie Gault

In the basketball category, there are many players I’ve met, but these few are the nicest:

Karen Salkin and Jason Kidd. Photo by Lauren Bennett.

Jason Kidd–another one who surprised me with his niceness and accessibility. And I thought it was cute how he kept rubbing my arm while we talked, but in a father-like way, not in the pawing manner that so many guys try.

Magic Johnson—I never appreciated him at the time, being the opposite of a Lakers fan, but in retrospect, it always hits me how nice he was to me every time I saw him.

And in the skating category, we have:

Johnny Weir–perhaps the only guy who ever called me when he said he would!!! Gay schmay.

Philippe Candeloro and Karen Salkin.

Philippe Candeloro–this one almost isn’t fair because we’re old pals. He’s the main athlete I wanted to meet, and through another friend, Michael Collins, (who was president of Champions On Ice,) I did! As excited as I was to spend the evening with him, when he tried to cop a feel as we hugged at the end of the night, I was appalled. At first. But then I decided to let it go, (because he’s French!,) and we’ve been pals ever since. (But don’t any of you other guys get any ideas; don’t even think of trying it, unless you’re also a two-time Olympic medalist.) He rarely comes to America anymore, so we’re long-distance pals now, but pals none the less. His pet name for me is “Miss Talksalot.” Charming. My pet name for him should be “Hands.”

Kurt Browning–when he was a young skater, I wasn’t a fan. But my mother was, so when I eventually met him and told him, he instantly melted my heart with kindness. And he turned-out to be one of the best skaters ever, too!

Karen Salkin and Dorothy Hamill.

Dorothy Hamill

Christopher Dean

Ben Agosto

Victor Petrenko

John Zimmerman

Michael Weiss

Peter Tchernyshev

Gwendal Peizerat

Last, but certainly not least, is a swimmer whose name I’ve spent hours searching for. Even with my phenomenal memory, I can’t conjure up her name, I think because I never knew it. I was a teenager, just out here, and working for a catering company. I was doing a week-day ladies luncheon at a house above Sunset near Doheny. The owner was a European Olympic swimming medalist, and when she was showing her guests her medal, she invited me to see it, too. That was so kind of her to include me. To this day, it’s the only Olympic medal I’ve seen in person!!! I know exactly what we were both wearing, what she sounded like, her face, and the menu. But my boss never mentioned her name, and as a teen-age worker, I wouldn’t even think to ask. So, when I finally figure out her name somehow, (and trust me, I’ll keep trying until I do,) I’ll definitely post the update. In my book, kindness is so rare that it shouldn’t go unrewarded.

Tomorrow, my thoughts on these games of the thirtieth Olympiad. Get some rest.


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