Olympic Moments: Larry Hough and Tony Johnson

Where does life take you after you’ve experienced Olympic glory? These past Olympians look back—and ahead.

By: Mary Yarrison

In 1969 After the ’68 Games, the rowers won the European championships. Photograph from 1969 courtesy of Tony Johnson.

Larry Hough and
Tony Johnson

Rowing
Hough was an Olympian in 1968 and 1972, Johnson in 1964 and 1968.
Silver medal, men’s pairs, 1968

Larry Hough is a gregarious, chatty venture capitalist originally from Wisconsin. Tony Johnson—the pensive, almost shy coach of the Georgetown University crew team—grew up in Arlington.

The two men seem very different until you get them talking about their 1968 Olympic silver medals or their years of training together. They finish each other’s stories—of daily walks through a cow pasture in Colorado to get from their house to their training site, of an impromptu soccer match at the Pan Am Games in 1967 that left Tony with a broken nose.

The story neither of them likes to finish concerns the ’68 Olympics. They had trained at a high altitude for months in preparation for Mexico City, where they would race at nearly 7,500 feet. They had devised a plan, says Hough, “to row as hard as we could for as long as we could and hope that was enough.”

They had reason to believe it would be: In the two previous seasons, they’d lost only once.

They purposely hadn’t taught themselves to set a comfortable pace—they didn’t want to be comfortable. But as the two men approached the finish line, they needed a burst of speed—and had nothing left. An East German team that hadn’t even seemed in contention beat them by two feet.

The men have gone on to successful careers in coaching and finance, but Hough says of the loss, “I count that on a very short list of huge disappointments in life.”

Read more Olympic Moments.