Sport: The Great White Whale

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"Listen," a fellow athlete once told a mountainous young football player named Parry O'Brien. "You can be either an All-American or an Olympic champion. There are at least 33 Ail-Americans every year. But there is only one Olympic champion—every four years." Parry O'Brien thought it over. "I wanted to be able to take the credit or the blame for what I did myself. I always wanted to be a soloist." So Parry became an Olympic champion.

This week, some six years and several world records later. Air Force Lieutenant William Parry O'Brien...