South Bay coach talks about Caitlyn Jenner ahead of ESPYS

ByChris Nguyen and by Chris Nguyen and Katie Utehs KGO logo
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
South Bay coach talks about Caitlyn Jenner ahead of ESPYS
On the eve of receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYS in Los Angeles, some South Bay residents who helped propel Caitlyn Jenner to Olympic gold in the 1970s are speaking out about the decathlete.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe award for Courage at Wednesday night's ESPYS as a glamorous woman. Some of the people who helped propel Jenner to Olympic gold in the 1970s are from the South Bay. On Wednesday, they had nothing but wonderful things to say about Jenner and their time together at San Jose City College.

VIDEO: Bay Area LGBT community reacts to Jenner's award

Before Caitlyn Jenner -- previously known as Bruce -- became a household name, the decathlete moved to San Jose in 1973.

"It really got out of control," said Bert Bonanno. "Because word got around about this handsome, articulate, good looking athlete."

This undated image shows a sign honoring Bruce Jenner at San Jose City College in San Jose, Calif.

Bonanno is the former Dean of PE and Athletics at San Jose City College. At the time, it was a training hotspot for American track stars.

Jenner's popularity would grow during the three years the athlete spent in San Jose, and so did support from the greater community, who helped fund Jenner's dream of becoming an Olympic champion.

Bonanno and Jenner would visit local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to raise money for training.

Caitlyn Jenner accepts Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPYS

"He was one of the persons on the campus that everyone knew," Bonanno said. "Big smile on his face, people would come over and want to take a photo with him, in advance of winning, now once he won, it's a whole new ball game."

Jenner's training partner and best friend during that time period was Campbell resident Vince Stryker. In fact, Jenner was the best man at Stryker's wedding.

Vince Stryker trained with Jenner at San Jose City College in the 70s then cheered for his best friend during the Montreal Olympics.

"To see him win it and then your best friend's winning it, it's just super exciting," Stryker said. "I owe a lot to sports. It's showed me the world."

Stryker says he's still adjusting to Jenner's new life, but is proud to call Caitlyn a friend.

"Finally to live without fear," he said. "You know, wanting to be who you want to be. I think you just got to support that," Stryker said. "And if she's happy, then I'm happy."

And after all of these years, there's still a competitive spark between the two.

"I'd still love to have a match with her now," Stryker said. "And yeah, it'd be fun, cause she can play some golf."

Winning the Olympic decathlon fast-tracked Jenner's fame and coming out as transgender again put her on a world stage.

"If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it, but for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with who they are they shouldn't have to take it," Jenner said during Wednesday's ESPYS.

Gabrielle Antolovich with the Billy DeFrank LGBT Center says Jenner's courage in coming out has encouraged others to do the same.

"They either call us or drop by and I think that's great," Antolovich said.

The Arthur Ashe Award is for people who transcend sports and perhaps being a good athlete or good person transcends gender.

Click here for details on the ESPYS, and click here for full coverage on Jenner.

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