By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, August 2, 2018
As far as Brian Goodell is concerned, he and his U.S. teammates were robbed in 1980.
Coming off his gold medal-winning, world record-setting swims in the 400 and 1500 freestyle at the 1976 Olympics as a soon-to-be high school senior, Goodell was poised to make an even bigger splash in Moscow at the 1980 Olympics.
And then he and his U.S. teammates were robbed – the men robbed of the opportunity to dominate even more than they did in 1976 when they won all events except one – the 200 breaststroke – and set nine world records in Montreal.
The women were robbed of the opportunity to prove East Germany’s drug-induced domination four years earlier wouldn’t be repeated.
“We first heard about a potential boycott around Thanksgiving in 1979, but none of us thought (President Jimmy) Carter would go through with it,” Goodell said. “That hung over our heads until March when he made it official that because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, the United States was boycotting. We were in disbelief. It just didn’t seem possible.”
The United States held its Olympic Trials in combination with Nationals after the conclusion of the Moscow Games. Largely ceremonial in intent, Goodell and the rest of the athletes who would have dominated the Olympics competed, albeit half-heartedly.
Bettering the times and results that the Russian and other athletes present for the Olympics swam during the Games provided Goodell and the other U.S. Olympic athletes the only impetus they had to want to compete at Trials.
“We didn’t get to swim in Moscow, so a lot of us – the swimmers who most likely would have competed at the Olympics – didn’t really see the point of holding Trials after the Games were over,” said Goodell, who was inspired as a young swimmer by Mark Spitz’s 7 gold medals at the 1972 Olympics. “There was a lot of bitterness that lasted for years.”
When the U.S. Olympic delegation that didn’t get the chance to compete were invited to the White House to meet President Carter, there was still a lot of animosity – and it wasn’t just from the athletes.
In place of what would have been Olympic medals, each member of the team was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
That day, they were given as replacements for lost Olympic gold, and, according to Goodell, the gesture was lost on most of them.
“We all knew it was just a trinket given to us because they felt bad about taking the Olympics away from us,” said Goodell, who won a silver medal in the 1500 free at the 1975 World Championships in Colombia and gold medals in both distance freestyle events at the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.
That year, over 685 were given to the summer Olympic team. But it was pretty hush-hush until 2004 when we were officially recognized at Olympic Trials.”
After moving past the disappointment of 1980, Goodell swam for another season. Once he finished his senior year at UCLA, where he was a 9-time NCAA champion and multiple All-American, as was the custom at the time, he retired after Indoor Nationals.
Shortly after that, he found his way temporarily into sports marketing, doing some meet commentary and making appearances, but the time wasn’t right yet to make a living doing it full time.
Goodell ventured boldly into the booming California real estate market, becoming a licensed agent selling brokerage, commercial and currently, residential properties.
He and wife, Vicki, created The Gold Medal Group with Berkshire Hathaway, and even during the recent Great Recession, was diversified enough to weather the storm and come out on top.
Along with real estate sales, the couple has become involved with development in and around their Mission Viejo community, and made a good living together. Together, they have three sons – Brian, Greg and Scott – the latter two also having swum at Mission Viejo, and a 7-month-old granddaughter. They all live nearby in Southern California and get together regularly.
In 2016, at the urging of residents of his Mission Viejo community, he ran for a seat on the city council and won. Considering that the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim club started in his parents’ living room, he said he feels very connected to his childhood club.
Almost halfway through year two of his four-year term, Goodell said the experience has been eye-opening in many ways.
And while it’s a lot of work on top of his regular job responsibilities, he said he is enjoying the opportunity to give of himself and his time for his community and swim club.
“Initially, I ran (for office) because there were issues with city management of the Nadadores pool, but now I realize, despite the extra time, I enjoy being involved with decision-making for the betterment of our community,” said Goodell, the 1977 Male World Swimmer of the Year and a 1986 inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
“I use so many of the amazing lessons I learned as a swimmer every day in my work and political lives – belief in self, ability to get things done, not panicking about anything and not being afraid of a challenge. I’ve also realized you can learn something from everybody, which has been beneficial on the council. I look at every day as an opportunity to learn and better myself.”