April 10, 2012, - 1:45 pm

Mark Lenzi, US Olympic Gold Medal Diver (Whom I Knew When I Was an Agent), RIP

By Debbie Schlussel

As many readers may know, in my previous life I was a sports agent and represented pro athletes in various sports from the NHL to Olympic individual sports.  In 1996, I was representing Olympic divers on Team USA, and I met and briefly got to know Mark Lenzi, the Olympic Gold Medal Diver who was the last American male diver to ever win a Gold Medal in a sport now dominated by the Chinese.  Sadly, he died yesterday, at the very young age of 43, concluding two weeks of hospitalization for low blood pressure.


I Was There: Mark Lenzi (Left) & Scott Donie (Right) @ U.S. Olympic Diving Trials Celebrating Making Team USA to the Olympics

In 1996, I represented U.S. Silver Medalist Scott Donie at the Atlanta Olympic Games.  That summer, I met Lenzi at the Team USA Olympic trials in Indianapolis.  He and my client were competing to be among the two finalists to represent Team USA in Atlanta.  A lot of people hated Mark because he wasn’t only cocky, but he could back it up with fantastic dives.  There was a great deal of professional jealousy of him among the divers. He’d won a Gold Medal and had retired, and now he was coming back to “take” a spot from an up-and-comer–that was the thinking from the haters.  But he was good at what he did, and he and my client were the final two and they made it to Atlanta (and I got my client a cool centerfold in Sports Illustrated).  He’d won a Gold Medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and my client won the Silver there.  And together, they went, again, to Atlanta, where Mark won a Bronze Medal.  And, yes, contrary to popular opinion that divers are gay–both of these guys were straight.


Mark’s story is interesting because he was a wrestler in high school and switched to diving because he saw Greg Louganis on TV winning the Gold Medal.  His father was upset, in part because people make the mistake of thinking diving isn’t a very masculine sport (it’s like gymnastics, and these guys are quite tough and strong).  After a falling out over this, Mark moved out of his parents’ home for two weeks.  But he and his father made their peace, and his father was proud when his son’s diving career took off.  Mark was a two-time NCAA diving champ, in addition to winning the Olympic Gold Medal.

Because the successful divers, like Mark, are short, some people said he was Napoleonic.  But I didn’t agree.  Despite his cockiness, I liked Mark Lenzi because he was smart and had spunk. And he had a sharp, entrepreneurial mind.  After the Olympics, I briefly talked with him and his agent and some USA Diving people about putting together a pro diving tour.  Market research had shown that synchronized dives in a “Cirque Du Soleil”-style show would be a success (and many former divers, such as my friend Cuban defector Rio Ramirez, go on to become Cirque performers).  And Mark and others in USA Diving felt this was a way to bring some good PR and money to men’s diving in America, on the decline due to feminist Title IX rules, which led many top universities (like UCLA) to dump their men’s diving and swimming programs.

But, despite Mark’s enthusiasm, it never took off because of the logistics of having an audience at a pool and generating enough interest.  I remember at the Olympics how proud he was to represent America and win another Olympic Medal.

In later years, he went on–as many former Olympic divers do–to become a commentator and diving coach.

Say a prayer for his wife and family.

Mark Lenzi, Rest In Peace.

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20 Responses

Sad story. I’m only a few years old than Mark Lenzi and it comes as a terrible shock.

A mensch and all around American champion. He will be sadly missed and my prayers and thoughts are with his family.

Mark Lenzi, RIP.

NormanF on April 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm

RIP

Hollywood on April 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Sad story, indeed.

DS_ROCKS! on April 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

??? ????? ? ‘??? ??? ??????? ???.
?????? 116:15

Hollywood on April 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I messed up;
“Precious in the site of the Lord is the death of his Saints”
Psalm 116:15

Hollywood on April 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Mark Lenzi was a world class athelete and it was a joy to watch him perform. May the Lord bless and keep him and his family.

Ken b on April 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Debbie, first of all Mazal tov on the correct usage of ‘whom’ at the top. Next thing you know radio DJ’s will start using adverbs. Now that you outed ML as straight, who are some non-straight celebs you know who pretend to be hetero? And is it true people in Hollywood pretend to be part Jewish for business purposes, or was that just Hillary R. Cankles on the campaign trail in NY?

A1 on April 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Yeah I’m not pro gay either.

    jake49 on April 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

A1, come on, asking Debbie to out all the closeted gay celebs she knows of? Is that your favorite style of investigative jouralism?

While I do think your request is rather classless, I will get down in the mud with you for just a moment and name one: Obama.

Richard on April 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Debbie, I have a question for you, since you represented Mr. Lenzi (I’ve never heard of Mark Lenzi until today) in the 1996 Olympic games as his agent at that time, did you also represent former Olympian “Kurt Angle” (now professional wrestler today with TNA/Impact Wrestling) in the 1996 summer games?

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on April 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm

My condolences to his family, and my thanks for representing his country admirably and well.

Occam's Tool on April 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm

One of those stories that touches one’s heart (pun intended). Little English boy gets a new heart after record 251 days living with an artificial heart:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17663497

This is one of those life-saving miracles we need to appreciate more often!

NormanF on April 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Mark Lenzi, RIP.

JeffE on April 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm

May light perpetual shine upon him.

Worry on April 11, 2012 at 7:06 am

Debbie. Is this self promotion about you and your past career or is this your attempt at honouring a friend? I usually respect your writing but this seemed to be less about Mark, who passed much too young, and more about you and your accomplishments.

clubsoda on April 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Club, a couple sentences about oneself to give credibility and explain a relationship to people in a story does not amount to “self promotion”. Where did that come from?

    Visteo on April 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Two cents plain:
    How do you expect Debbie to preface this story? What is wrong with her exposing her involvment with the late Mark Lenzi whose passing you may not have been made aware of unless you subscribed to the New York Times.
    In a way is not your inane comment a form of self promotion?

    Ron Wolf aka "Columbo" on April 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Debbie is honoring her friend. Nothing wrong with it and there was nothing improper in her work as a sports agent. That was before she became a journalist so there is NO conflict of interest.

She fares far better in credibility and integrity than the journalistic frauds that fill the profession today.

NormanF on April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

Joel Crain on April 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I was sad to hear of Mark Lenzi’s passing. One correction to your story:American David Boudia, Purdue University grad, won the gold on the 10M platform in London.

Thanks

Larry on December 23, 2012 at 7:14 am

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