30 Years ago today in Jason Morris Judo Center history, August 9, 1992, Jason Morris’ father (Bernie) died of a heart attack on his way to the closing ceremonies of the 25th Olympiad in Barcelona, Spain.
Photo: Jason and Bernie in Barcelona at the celebration dinner after Jason won a silver medal in the XXV Olympiad in 78kg of the Judo competition.
Editors Note: I would like to share an article that I wrote following my father’s untimely death 30 years ago. Bernie Morris died of a massive heart attack while on his way to the closing ceremonies of the Barcelona Olympics August 9, 1992. I had already returned to the US for the Olympians luncheon with president Bush. I would like to mention that my Mother, Chris has been a HUGE part of my success as well and is still alive and kicking keeping me in line.
As an athlete, I travel, train and compete, striving for that ultimate goal – the Olympic gold medal.
This journey would not be possible without the undying devotion of any athlete’s parents. They unselfishly take their kids to practice every day and try to get them to the best training places – which can mean sending them overseas and spending thousands of dollars out of their own pockets. In a low-profile sport such as judo, that figure can be enormous.
Regardless of the sport, the cost doesn’t matter for the parents, who want to help in anyway possible for that common dream of competing in the Olympic Games.
For me, my father, Bernie was my rock. He did everything in his power to help me perform at my best, both mentally and physically. If I needed medical care, he flew me anywhere to see the best doctors. If I mentioned that I would like to watch video of a certain opponent, the next week I would have it. When I needed to train or compete in Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), or Italy – or wherever – he got me there.
Over the years, my dad earned the nickname “The Answer Man.” Everyone came to Bernie for the answers because he knew so much about a wide range of things. If someone had a problem, everyone else would say, “Go see Bernie.” Answers for anything, from directions to a local store to fixing planes.
There are thousands of “Answer Man” stories, but these two typify what my father was willing to do for his son.
In the summer of 1987, I had just won the world trials, and the championships of the Junior Pan Ams, the Pan American Games and the Pacific Rim, and was scheduled to compete the following week in Austria. I was home for one day, unpacking and re-packing and was complaining about not wanting to go while my father just listened. It was time to go, and of course I had to fly by myself again. This trip was literally planes, trains, and automobiles.
I finally arrived 15 hours later and was 10 pounds overweight for competition. Needless to say, I was in no frame of mind to compete. I ran to try and lose weight, but found out I was still five pounds over the night before my event. I as walking back to my hotel room with head down low, ready to tell the officials I was not going to compete when I happened to look up…and there was my dad. “Hi there,” he said. “I thought you were really bumming out back home, so I caught the next flight out to see if you could use some help.”
I was in shock. I was so happy that I went out and lost the five pounds. I excelled in the competition and won the gold medal, becoming the first American to win the Austrian Open. Afterwards, my dad shook my hand to congratulate me and said, simply, “See you at home.”
Another time, I was training in Japan for a tournament in Tokyo called the Kano Cup. It is probably the toughest tournament in the world because the Japanese get four entries per weight class, instead of the normal one entry per category in World and Olympic competitions. When I returned home, my father wasn’t there, and I asked a close friend and neighbor where he was. He said that my dad had gone to Helsinki, Finland, which just happened to be where the European Championships were being held. He flew all the way over there with his own money just to videotape my competitors. Watching those videos played a tremendous part in helping me achieve my Olympic silver medal, where I lost only to Hidehiko Yoshida of Japan in the finals.
Before I left Barcelona, I met with my dad. He shook my hand to congratulate me and said, again, “See you at home.” That was the last time i saw him.
When I was standing on the podium with the Olympic silver medal securely around my neck, all I thought about was my father and how much time and effort he put in for me. I realized that this was our medal, not just mine, and for all that he did for me, I will be eternally grateful.
Thank you, Bernie Morris. I love you.
Bernard Newth Morris, Jr.
“The Answer Man”
March 9, 1943 – August 9, 1992