Thursday, August 2, 2012

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Man, 90, grabs his own Olympic record: He's been to 18 games

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Unlike the thousands of Olympic athletes hoping to publicly smash records this week, Harry Nelson has quietly spent his life setting his own.
For this 90-year-old, his reward won’t be a gold medal, but a spot in the Guinness World Records for attending the most summer Olympic games. London marks his 18th time as an Olympic spectator.
Nelson attended his first event as a child when the Summer Games came to his neighborhood.
“At age 10, something called the Olympics had come to Los Angeles where we lived. I didn’t know what that was but, of course, as time went by, we understood,” he told TODAY’s Al Roker and Natalie Morales.
Following those games, Nelson said he, his brother and cousins built their own “Olympic field” in a vacant lot next door to their home.
“We had a track, we had our pole vault with a little bamboo pole and a high jump,” he said. “We had a discus — we used a wagon wheel for our discus.”
In the decades since, Nelson has saved money in various ways for his trips — including collecting change in a mason jar and selling his car to his uncle when he was in college.
Nelson's company during most of the Olympic trips has included his wife, Delores “Dee” Nelson. The London trip is her 12th Summer Game. She made her first Olympic trip in 1956 to Melbourne in what ended up being a delayed honeymoon for the couple.
She told TODAY she doesn’t have a favorite sport although she and her husband favor the track and field events.
“That’s what attracted us together, because we started going to the Coliseum relays in L.A., and that led to the Olympics,” she said.
The Torrance, Calif., couple were among the few Americans who attended the 1980 Moscow Games, despite the U.S. boycott and a letter from then-President Carter discouraging them from going.
In 2008, Nelson self-published a book about his Olympic experiences, "Following the Flame: A 76-Year Olympic Journey."

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