Avener, Marshall : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Avener, Marshall


Country Represented:
United States

Years Competed:
1972, 1976

Olympic Info:
Avener was a member of the U.S. men's gymnastics team at both the the 1972 Munich Olympics and the 1976 Montreal Games. In Munich, he helped the U.S. finish in 10th place in the team competition (533.85 points), while placing 50th in the individual all-around event (it was the second highest placing among U.S. gymnasts).

During the 1972 Games, Marshall and his wife Judi took a trip to Austria after the gymnastics competition had ended. While they were gone, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes and coaches hostage, massacring 11 of them. Avener later said, "When we left, it was just a nice day. When we got back, there was an armed, helmeted soldier with an automatic weapon standing about every twenty feet surrounding the entire Olympic village."

After a day of mourning, the Games were allowed to continue and while many criticized this decision, Averner said, "If they canceled the Games, I think the terrorists would have won even more...To cancel that because of some violent people I think is wrong. To continue...I don't think intends or shows any dishonor to those who were brutally attacked."

At the 1976 Montreal Games, Avener returned to Olympic competition and finished 43rd in the individual all-around while the U.S. finish seventh in the team competition.

Career Highlights:
Avener, who grew up on Long Island, took up gymnastics in the seventh grade after seeing the movie Trapeze and being, "...completely astounded when I saw people doing things that seemed superhuman. Being able to just jump up in the air and flip around and come back down under such control, it just amazed me. It was like magic." After taking up the sport, Avener was offered scholarships by several colleges and chose to matriculate at Penn State.

During his sojourn in State College, PA, Avener became known as the "Mouth," and later said, "I was possibly Penn State's most obnoxious, outspoken, emotionally immature athlete for many, many years. I think I offended a great many people at Penn State. Actually, it's not true to say I offended a great many people at Penn State. It's much more accurate to say a great many people, period, all over the world."

Although Avener may have been outspoken, his talent was hard to overlook. After finishing third in both the individual all-around and the vault at the 1970 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships, he had an even more outstanding year in 1973. That year, Marshall was a Nissen Award finalist (the highest award in collegiate gymnastics), and was the NCAA Champion in the individual all-around. He also placed third in the vault and in the parallel bars, fifth in the rings, and sixth in the pommel horse, as he helped lead Penn State to a second-place team finish at the NCAA's.

That year at the U.S. Gymnastics Federation National Championships, Avener won the all-around, the pommel horse, and the parallel bars, and finished second in the rings event. In 1974, Marshall finished 14th in the all-around at the U.S. World Trials, and fifth at a U.S.-Poland Dual Meet. The following year, he won the bronze medal in the vault competition, and was fifth in the all-around, at the 1975 Pan American Games.

Previously, he had finished 58th in the men's all-around competition at the 1970 World Championships; the U.S. finished seventh in the team event. The Americans finished eighth in the team competition four years later. Based on archived world rankings from www.worldgymrank.com, Avener was 23rd in the world in 1975.

After his competitive career ended, Marshall coached the women's gymnastics team at Penn State for a number of years before moving to Florida, where he is currently a creative director for Rosebud Productions, a marketing firm.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1951

Brooklyn, New York

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