Caitlyn Jenner Wears Her Olympic Medal on the Cover of Sports Illustrated – Vanity Fair
The rumors about Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated proved to be only partially true. She’s not nude, although she is wearing a nude jumpsuit covered in sparkles. She is wearing her Olympic gold medal, which she won in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Games. The medal appeared on a table in the Vanity Fair story that introduced Caitlyn to the world, but writer Tim Layden notes that this is the first time Jenner has put the medal around her neck in public since the Games.
“It is a startling pose that delivers two messages. The first lands softly, celebrating an aging sports hero on the anniversary of a proud moment. The second hits more forcefully, a transgender American, thanking her country for its tolerance, and asking for more,” Layden writes. Jenner told Sports Illustrated that the emblem of her Olympic victory as Bruce usually languishes in her nail drawer and only emerges for show-and-tell. She put it on for this cover because, “It’s a picture that brings attention to this issue. That’s the important thing. That’s why I wore the medal.”
We’ve gotten to know Caitlyn a lot over the past year: first through the Vanity Fair story, and then through her E! docuseries I Am Cait. This new profile presents Jenner’s journey through the lens of sports (which makes sense given its outlet), with more introspection about the pivotal moment after the Games in 1976. “The decathlon was my best friend, and that was over. I lost my beard,” Jenner explains. She retells the story about wearing nothing but the new medal, looking in a mirror in a Montreal hotel room, and asking, “What the hell am I going to do now?”
The 2016 answer is very different from the one 40 years ago, and Jenner is able to riff on the passage of time with a track-and-field joke. “Glamour magazine Woman of the Year and Olympian decathlon gold medalist. This has got to be the greatest double of all time, right? It will never be matched.” Back then, however, Jenner saw a reflection in the mirror that she didn’t like. “It disgusted me. I was big and thick and masculine. The rest of the world thought it was this Greek god kind of body. I hated it. But it’s what I was given, so I just tried to do the best I could with it.”
Jenner uses the interview to encourage Layden to write about issues concerning gender and sports, a topic she follows closely. For example, the International Olympic Committee recently eliminated language in its bylaws requiring transgender athletes to undergo gender-reassignment surgery before being eligible to compete.
The profile is accompanied by a 22-minute documentary called Jenner: 40 Years After Gold, which features Caitlyn reflecting on her journey since that fateful moment in Montreal. “I loved Bruce,” she tells Layden. “I still love him today. I like what he did and the way he set an example for hard work and dedication. I’m proud of that part of my life. But this woman was living inside me, all my life, and it reached the point where I had to let her live and put Bruce inside. And I am happier, these last 12 months, than I’ve ever been in my life.”