Cycling Change

Cycling Scott McGrory: Seoul 1988, learning from and about the East Germans and Soviets


In 1988 I was a very lucky 18yr old kid in the Australian Cycling Team for the Seoul Olympics.

Before the Games we were lead to believe that the Soviet Union and East Germans were unbeatable, supermen in fact. Our coach's admiration towards them had me, the youngest in the team, looking at them as mythical beast of speed and power. We'd be pleased to pick up a bronze in the Team Pursuit, just to stand on the podium with these Gods of Track would be an honour, or so I thought.

And bronze it was, beaten by East Germany in the semi-final but good enough to defeat Italy in the ride for 3rd. We were happy to have won a medal, considering our competition were eastern block robots, void of emotion, manufactured by scientist, right?

A few days later the Mens Sprint was coming down to the medal rounds. Looking on the money was a legend of Sprinting, East German Lutz Hesslich. Gold Medalist from Moscow in 1980, Lutz missed the Los Angeles 84 Games due to a political boycott. Eight years on from Moscow he was again the favourite and in the Gold Medal ride off.

A wide eyed kid, with a bronze medal in my pocket, watched that final sprint from the track's infield. After yet another tactical masterpiece of sprinting, Lutz won his second Olympic title and quickly stopped right in front of where I stood. He collapsed off his bike and sat against the inner fence, then something strange happened. He cried! Sobbing uncontrollably, no more than 2 metres away, was the god of sprinting, this mythical character that I believed wasn't even human.

Then it hit me, regardless of what the Soviet and East German programs were up to at the time, these guys were actually human after all. They were as passionate about their sport as anyone. They would sweat, bleed, love and cry for their sport just as I would.

That's the moment I realised that the number one ingredient to be successful in sport, is passion! It was passion running down Lutz's face, and I'm honoured to have witnessed it.


Scott won the gold medal in the Madison at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, a silver in the Madison at the 1996 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester and a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in the team pursuit. Scott was one of the top Six Day riders in the world and rode for Team Gerolsteiner before joining the number 1 ranked team in the world Mapei-Quick Step.

Scott works as a commentator and reporter for TV and radio and has covered the Tour De France and London 2012 Olympics.

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottMcGrory

Memory added on May 17, 2015


No comments have yet been added to this memory.

Add a comment

Mark as favourite