You might be forgiven for not recognizing his name.
Steve Hug was 16 years of age in 1968, when, in Mexico City, he became the youngest U.S. male Olympian in history. He competed again in the ’72 Olympics in Munich.
Stanford University, his alma mater, describes Hug in its Hall of Fame as the ”winningest” Stanford gymnast ever.
Hug was definitely a prodigy. Larry Banner, of the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame, wrote that he saw Hug perform when Hug was around 12 and thought, “I suspect we’re seeing a world class champion in the making.”
To the 10-year-old Greg Glassman who saw Hug perform, it was a revelation. Hug’s performances were his inspiration, Hug his childhood hero.
Though they have a great many friends and acquaintances in common, the two had never met until the week of the Games this summer. When they did, Glassman, CrossFit Founder and CEO, explained the magnitude and scope of CrossFit’s aims—from improved fitness for people around the world to the various charitable initiatives, the rapidly growing community of affiliate owners and the excitement of crowning the world’s fittest at the Games. On parting, Glassman embraced Hug and, referring to the inspiration Hug had provided him as a youth, said: “None of this would exist without you.”
The story of Hug’s athletic career is astounding, but it paints a larger picture of the sad decline of men’s gymnastics in the United States “to near extinction,” as Coach Glassman puts it.