The 2016 Summer Olympics start on Friday, Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and for one Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) alumnus, they will no doubt bring back a flood of memories.
Larry Plenert (CMBC ’78) represented Canada as part of the men’s volleyball team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, QC.
“That sits up as one of the real significant highlights that I’ve had the privilege to experience,” Plenert says.
One memory from the Games that stands out in particular took place on July 17, 1976, when Plenert and his fellow athletes entered the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremonies.
It was Plenert’s 23rd birthday.
“All athletes parade into the stadium with the country they’re representing,” Plenert said. “This is done alphabetically... (but) the host country comes in last.”
He recalls hearing the roar of the crowd when the Canadian athletes were announced and entered the stadium.
“You can just imagine the incredible cheering of 70,000 people raining down, and you feel it personally, as though they’re cheering for you,” Plenert says.
For Plenert, competing in the Olympics was the culmination of four years of dedication to his sport – four years that included a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
He recalls feeling euphoric at the opening ceremony.
“At that moment, in your mind, you firmly believe you will obtain an Olympic medal,” he says. “Together with the excitement of the moment and the anticipation, there’s also this tremendous sense of optimism and the (feeling) that you’re going to do something really special.”
In the years that followed, Plenert went on to become a lawyer. He practiced law in Abbotsford, B.C. for 27 years.
Since 2008, he has worked as an adjudicator of claims of serious physical or sexual abuse by former students of Indian Residential Schools.
While Plenert and his Olympic teammates did not end up winning a medal, the experience made for some unforgettable memories.
“In many ways, like anything else, the journey to get there is probably far more important than the event,” Plenert says. “That celebration during opening ceremonies is something that is just a truly remarkable and memorable experience for me, which I’ll never forget.”
In his home, Plenert has a mounted poster of Team Canada entering the stadium in 1976.
Even though you can’t distinguish faces, he knows exactly where he is in the picture.
“I can see my arm waving to the crowd,” Plenert says. “For me, (the poster is) a symbol of that tremendous time in my life.”