One of the most beloved athletes of the 1970s, track athlete Bruce Jenner was born on October 28, 1949, in Mount Kisco, New York. Jenner had dyslexia and struggled in school at a young age, but excelled at sports. An injury in college forced him to give up football and turn to track and field. His coach encouraged him to train for the Olympic decathlon, and, in 1972, Jenner placed third in the Olympic trials and tenth at the Munich Games. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Jenner won a gold medal and broke a world record, scoring 8,634 points in the decathlon. In recent years, Jenner has appeared with his family on the popular reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and later revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview that he is transgender and identifies as a woman.
Early Life and Career
Born William Bruce Jenner on October 28, 1949, in Mount Kisco, New York, Bruce Jenner struggled with dyslexia and sought success through sports in his youth. In high school, Jenner excelled in water skiing, football, basketball and track. He accepted a football scholarship from Graceland College in Iowa, but after a knee injury took him out of the game, he switched to track and field. His college track coach, L.D. Weldon, convinced Jenner to train for the Olympic decathlon. Little did the athlete know then that he would go on to become one of the most beloved athletes of the 1970s.
In 1972, Bruce Jenner made an impressive run at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany (also known as the Games of the XX Olympiad): He placed third in the Olympic trials and tenth at the Olympic Games.
Four years later, however, Jenner would achieve Olympic stardom at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. At the Montreal Games, the athlete won a gold medal and set a new world record, scoring 8,634 points in the decathlon. After his win, a bystander handed him an American flag, which he enthusiastically grabbed for a victory lap—a gesture that has been repeated in Olympic games ever since.
Following his Olympic success in 1976, Jenner has remained in the public eye through endorsements, speaking engagements, TV appearances and other outlets. After famously appearing on the Wheaties cereal box, he pursued guest appearances on TV series such as CHiPs and The American Sportsman. He also became one of only seven spokesmen for Wheaties.
In 1980, Jenner made his big-screen debut in the notorious flop Can’t Stop the Music. He later starred alongside Kris Kristofferson and Martin Sheen in the dramatic film Original Intent, which went straight to DVD and was released in 1992.
Reality TV Star and Other Roles
From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, Jenner worked on several TV series and appeared in TV movies. In recent years, he has appeared as himself on numerous game shows and TV reality series, most notably with then wife Kris Jenner, children Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and stepchildren Robert Jr., Kim,Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian (Kris Jenner’s children with her first husband, Robert Kardashian), on the E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which premiered in 2007.
Jenner also has two children, Casey and Burt, from his first marriage to Chrystie Crownover (married from 1972 to 1981), and two sons, Brandon and Brody, by his second wife, Linda Thompson (married from 1981 to 1985).
In October 2013, Jenner confirmed that he and his wife Kris had separated. The pair appeared to have split up the previous year. In a statement to E! News, the couple said that “we will always have much love and respect for each other. Even though we are separated, we will always remain best friends and, as always, our family will remain our number one priority.” Jenner is expected to continue to appear on the family’s reality show. In September 2014, it was announced that the couple officially filed for divorce.
Since his retirement from sports, Jenner has also become a popular motivational speaker, television sports commentator and author. He is head of Bruce Jenner Aviation, a firm that sells aircraft to executives and corporations, and has written several books, including Decathlon Challenge: Bruce Jenner’s Story, The Teenage Guide to Fitness and Finding the Champion Within. The famous athlete has stated, “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability.” When he’s not working, Jenner enjoys flying planes, golfing and participating in Grand Prix racing events.
During the early afternoon of February 7, 2015, in Malibu, California, Jenner was the driver of one of the vehicles involved in a serious multi-car collision, with a woman killed from the accident. Jenner passed a field sobriety test, and an investigation is underway as to the cause of the crash.
Also in February of 2015, after some previous tabloid speculation and splashy covers, vetted news outlets began to report on Jenner’s alleged identity as a transgender person, with some noting subtle, gradual changes in the Olympian’s physical appearance.
His mother was interviewed by The Associated Press, stating that she’s unequivocally proud of Jenner and that he did come out to her about his identity. Other family members have made brief, supportive remarks as well. It was also rumored that Jenner was preparing an E! docu-series to chronicle his transition, but he opted out of the program, wanting to handle the process more privately with his children. The Olympian nonetheless negotiated an exclusive TV interview with Diane Sawyer, which was conducted in early February and aired in the latter half of April on ABC’s 20/20. Trans rights advocates have pointed out to the public that, rather than make assumptions, it’s important for Jenner to make his own statement about what his gender identity will ultimately be.
During the interview with Sawyer, Jenner stated that he identifies as a woman, using the gender-based pronouns “he” and “we” at times during the talk while going through his personal history, including his decision to have hormone treatments, his sexual orientation, and the emotional experience of talking to his children about his transition.