Strong memories: Hatfield native Judy Strong recalls 1984 Olympic Games

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women’s National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, talks about her life at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong's Olympic bronze medal. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Judy Strong, a field hockey player who was a member of the Women's National Team that won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, stands beside her medal at her home in Hatfield, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

@Hargraves24
Published: 8/5/2016 7:25:54 PM

Every four years, when the music and theatrics from the Summer Olympic Opening Ceremonies are jumping off television screens all over the world, Judy Strong can’t help but go back to 1984.

“I still get goose bumps,” Strong said.

She goes back to the Los Angeles Coliseum with 93,000 people in the stands, proudly wearing the red, white and blue. She goes back to her time representing not only the United States in her beloved sport of field hockey, but her hometown of Hatfield in the 1984 Olympic Games.

“I have a hard time telling people what I did a month ago,” Strong said. “But remembering what happened in 1984 is clear as day. I can recall every detail. That’s how much of an impact it has on your life.”

Strong’s field hockey team brought home a bronze medal, which is now framed and in her office. When she returned from Los Angeles and a multi-city tour for winning a medal, Hatfield had a parade waiting for her off the highway.

“I was proud to be from a small town going over to represent western Mass.,” Strong said. “Little old Hatfield, nobody knows where it is. When I got off the highway there was a convertible waiting for me.”

As Strong cruised through Hatfield, crowds lined the street headed toward Town Hall, where there was a ceremony in her honor.

“Words can’t justify that feeling,” Strong said. “I was thrilled with that support. It was a neat kind of unity.”

With Amherst native Michael Hixon in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games, Strong can’t help but to share his excitement as the games get underway. After Strong, Hixon is only the second athlete born and raised in Hampshire County to make the Summer Olympics.

“He obviously has made the sacrifice,” Strong said. “He has trained day after day. Now he is there and he has to peak. There is going to be so much excitement. Your eyes get huge. He’s going to have a lot moments where he says ‘wow here I am’. He’s just got to enjoy it and not get caught up in what’s going on around you.”

It’s all about diving for Hixon, who will compete in the 3-meter synchronized springboard with Sam Dorman, and 3-meter individual springboard.

Strong witnessed Greg Louganis win gold in 1984.

“You’re still there for a purpose,” Strong said. “To bring home a medal for your country. You don’t know if you’ll be back. Take it one dive at a time.”

Even 32 years later, people notice Strong as someone they’ve seen or read about.

“They will stop me and recognize me,” Strong said. “Especially when the Olympics come around. It surprises me. It could be in the grocery store or where ever. They look at me and the wheels start turning. It strikes up a conversation.”

Strong went to Smith Academy and had 20 classmates in her graduating class. From there she played at UMass and then it was on to the Olympics at age 24.

After coaching at Smith College for 20 years, Strong jumped into officiating and that is where she has spent the last eight years.

Strong recently got a tattoo of the Olympic rings on her right forearm. The spot was quite deliberate, as in her officiating duties she spends a lot of time pointing with that arm. The tattoo represents a sign to a complaining player of her field hockey accomplishments.

“I mostly do Division I,” Strong said. “A lot of ACC teams. It was a new challenge but I love still being involved with the game. Running with the players and anticipating what they are going to do. I do it as long as my body will let me.”

Strong had a chance to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, but President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott.

“We were hearing that the invasion of Afghanistan might cause a boycott,” Strong said. “It happened. Then we heard we might get to decide as a team.”

About 60 counties boycotted the Olympics.

“You want to feel sick to your stomach,” Strong said. “Some of the (field hockey) team had to miss the games and retire. It was devastating. I don’t think sports and politics should mix.”

Carter invited American athletes to the White House as a consolation for not competing, but many athletes, including Strong, did not want to go. The disappointment behind missing 1980 motivated Strong to train for 1984 with an added ferocity.

“I refocused and used it as motivation,” Strong said. “But four years seemed like 40.”




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