[CR]John Sinibaldi, 1932 and 1936 Olympian

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 10:21:47 -0700
From: Chuck Schmidt <chuckschmidt@earthlink.net>
To: Classic Rendezvous <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: [CR]John Sinibaldi, 1932 and 1936 Olympian

Great article Louis! I have seen a movie of the road race at the '36 Munich Olympics. Lots of crashes are shown, also lots of close-ups of the bikes and riders from a camera car. There was a mixture of derailleur bikes and fixed gear bikes that caused quite a few crashes.

Chuck Schmidt L.A., CA

St. Petersburg Times article Louis Schulman posted:

John Sinibaldi, 88, competed in two Olympic Games in cycling. He still rides five mornings a week with the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club. He wants to return to the Olympics as a torchbearer.

http://www.sptimes.com/2002/03/02/photos/flo-MD-CYCLIST.jpg Photograph and interview by LARA CERRI © St. Petersburg Times published March 2, 2002

As a young man, John Sinibaldi was a 10-time national bicycling champion. He competed in two Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1936. At 88, he still rides five mornings a week with the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, logging 7,000 miles a year. When he's not in the saddle, he's in his garden from which he regularly harvests everything from pineapples to pecans.

The first one I rode in Los Angeles. It was the most -- I would say -- secluded Olympics. There was hardly any publicity on it. I'll give you a rough idea. There was a kid who came up and asked me for an autograph. I told him it was cycling, and he didn't want my autograph. '32. Los Angeles.

The only celebrities we had when we were there was mostly the movie actors. Quite a few movie actors were bicycle riders. It was their favorite sport. They always invited us to their parties and everything. We got invited to go see the polo game and, of course, Clark Gable was playing polo. We went to that. We met him. Who ran around with the bicycle gang was Joey Brown. Joey Brown was quite a comedian -- was quite an athlete.

Being in the Olympics was just part of racing I guess. It was a nice thing to do. To be in the Olympics was something. You didn't have to worry about publicity. You didn't have to worry about professionals. Today, they pick all professionals and that's wrong. Figure skating is all professional. You look at 'em -- God, they're multimillionaires almost. It's not a nice Olympics anymore.

The '36 Olympics in Berlin, I qualified for that, too. We took a boat. It took four days. We had about 1,000 athletes on that altogether. At that time, everybody was the same. All the stars -- even Jesse Owens -- were with us. And Helen Hayes, the movie actor. She was on there, too.

The day of the Olympic games they lined up all the countries and here came the big limousine, and up above was the Hindenburg. And Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, you name it, they were all there. They got out of their car and then they opened up the Games. A friend of ours went up to Hitler and asked for his autograph. He signed it. He was building his country at that time.

In the road race, someone fell and 25 of us went down. There was 200 riders. So I got up and start chasing. I'll be darned if the guy in front of me falls. I fall down again. Then I had no place to go -- fell a third time. And the fourth time I went down, I was with five other fellows, and I see the finish line. I think, "I'll just go right around them." Zoom. Just as I get in front of them my rear wheel collapsed. I took the whole five down with me.

My dream in '36 was to turn professional and ride the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy. I went one time to train (with pros). I wanted to see how they lived. I didn't like it. I didn't like the way they live, drink, eat. They took painkillers -- not drugs like they take today, like steroids. The traveling and all, I didn't like that. I was more of a homebody, you know.

Everybody has a dream of becoming a pro -- in most of the sports. But you get disappointed in a way because you don't want to live that way. For me, I like the easy life. I like to do whatever I feel like doing. Right now? Riding the bike. I feel better when I ride, If I don't ride, I feel lazy somehow.

Becoming a pro was a dream. But then it disappeared. And it went like nothing. Even today, it doesn't bother me. But I enjoy riding a bicycle. It was the pleasure of riding a bicycle that stopped me from becoming a pro. I wanted to be free. Whatever I did, I rode the bike free. I was a free man.

What I'd like in the future is to be 100. And I'd like to carry the torch for the Olympics. I would love to see the day when I could carry it. Either I carry the torch or somebody carry me -- one of the two.